How would you describe your college experience?
Honestly, at first, I did not love college. It took me a couple of years to truly find my place. I transferred to MTSU after my freshman year of college because I realized that if I wanted to get a job in the music business, I really needed to be near Nashville for my undergraduate work. I loved my RIM classes and meeting other folks with a drive to innovate within the music business. I loved gaining an understanding of how the entertainment business worked. I had phenomenal professors who had so many real experiences to share and great industry contacts to help with getting us off and running after graduating. During my junior year, I got a job as a sound production technician for the music hall in the School of Music. It was a great mix of handling microphones and technology while providing customer service and expanding my knowledge of music. At that job, I met two other women who affirmed that it was awesome to be a woman who knew the difference between a Sennheiser and a Shure. I also volunteered at the Women's Center (now the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students) and helped start up Tau Sigma, the transfer student honor society. Once I found organizations that catered to my interests and passions, I connected with other folks who became my support system throughout my early 20s. I also got involved more actively with EYH during my senior year and was amazed to hear so many stories from my classmates about influential teachers along the way who had reinforced the idea that girls were not supposed to be interested in STEM fields. That has been a major motivation for me to be a teacher who breaks gender stereotypes and encourages respect among all my students.
When did you know that you wanted to major in a STEM discipline?
I got involved with the sound engineering when I was high school working as a techie for our high school theater productions. There is definitely something that is empowering about understanding signal flow and looking at a sound board and being able to make it work despite it having what looks like hundreds of buttons and wires. I like problem solving and being challenged mentally and sound engineering can definitely provide opportunities to stretch those areas of my brain. When I found out I could study the music business in college, I was immediately sold.
What is the most rewarding thing that you do in your job as a STEM professional?
I love witnessing that light bulb moment where students suddenly "get" whatever it is that I am teaching or make their current knowledge connect with other experiences in their lives. I also have always enjoyed destroying gender stereotypes. Girls can do anything and everything that boys can do. Yes, I can build a fire with flint and steel and I like tinkering with electronics. Yes, I enjoy an all-natural herbal facial. Yes, I like talking about Bernoulli's Principle and teaching about the Civil War. And yes, I think bugs are simultaneously creepy and awesome. I want my students to learn to respect and relate to one another, not as boys and girls, but as humans.
What would you tell a middle or high school girl about careers in STEM?
An interest in a STEM career is an awesome gift. There are so many opportunities for you to be a part of great organizations or start your own companies, and regardless, to do great work. You don't have to decide right now what you want to do for the rest of your life but as you have ideas about those interests, seek women out who are in that field and ask them about their careers. Find out the positives and the negatives of their jobs and put yourself in their shoes. It's kind of like going shopping and trying a career on for size. That way you will be able to prepare yourself to do the best job in that field that you can.
What should middle and high school girls be doing to prepare themselves for college
and a STEM careers?
If you have an interest in something, take the time to explore that interest. Middle school and high school are definitely the time for that. There are extracurriculars, clubs, community groups, and websites out there that can link you up with working professionals and provide you with volunteer opportunities in any field, hobby, or activity. Even if what you are interested in is totally different from your other interests, it is great to have a wide base of experience and skills as you start your career. These experiences provide opportunities to find what you love. Admissions counselors and hiring managers enjoy hearing candidates speak about what they are passionate about.
What advice do you have for teachers and counselors who are assisting students prepare
for a STEM major and career?
Point out the qualities to these students that make them viable candidates for STEM careers. Is that student creative? Does she think outside the box? Is the student a problem solver? Is she an organizer? What leadership style does she exhibit? Is she a hard worker who is determined to achieve? Students often miss some of their greatest qualities while trying to fit into their specific box that they have defined for themselves. Encourage them to explore not only their strengths, but also their weaknesses. If a student encounters a particularly intense challenge, she is often going to feel both humbled and feel an incredible boost in self-esteem when she overcomes that challenge.
What career advice would you give to girls if you only had 2 minutes?
A couple of pieces of career advice that have been so crucial to me are as follows: 1) Don't take criticisms or critiques personally. When someone is evaluating your work performance, they are telling you what actions and work they need to be completed, not evaluating your worth. I think women, in particular, tend to really take critiques too deeply when really the reviewer just needs the work performance to improve. 2) Admit when you make mistakes. It takes a strong woman to admit that she messed up. People will respect you so much more if you fess up to mistakes and work to constantly be learning from them. 3) Remember that you are the only person who truly has to live with the decisions you make each day. It is so easy to fall into the trap of making decisions to please others, but you are the one who faces those decisions and their repercussions every second of your life. You may not know what you want all the time but don't forget to listen to yourself.
22nd MTSU EYH Conference 2018
Registration is now open!
The conference is scheduled for October 27, 2018.
Rachel Marlin represents MTSU at the SENCER Summer Institute.
SERMACS 2017 Partners for Progress and Prosperity (P3) Award to MTSU WISTEM Center, Nashville ACS Local Section, and MTSU EYH.