Use your individuality to build your career path whether it leans
toward academia, outreach, or both. The existing underlying threads
between your experiences and the pursuit of research problems
might surprise you.
By Joslenne Peña
scholarships, grants, and other fund-
ing opportunities. I always viewed
my demographical background and
my general identity as a detriment.
For me, surpassing the norm was
abnormal. Pursuing a four-year de-
gree was unfamiliar. Now imagine,
an advanced degree? Certainly, out
of the ordinary. It is was no surprise
that when I told my mother I wanted
to continue schooling she was con-
cerned. This was more uncharted
territory. Was it not enough that I un-
derwent four years of undergraduate
Irecently finished pursing a research project called “Evaluation of a Technology Education Pipeline Project” with my advisor and colleagues. The purpose of this project was to develop and analyze an online community built for the i Tech Academy Summer Camps, which took place at Penn State’s College of IST campus. My broader
inspiration for this project stemmed from my personal background. I am a first-generation
Hispanic college student, from a low-income family. I wanted to give younger students the
opportunities I never had, ranging from available software and technology to concepts.
The i Tech Academy offers four different week-long camps for high-school and middle-school
children. The camps aim to broaden interest and participation in computer technology
careers. Our research goal was to understand the effectiveness of the i Tech
Academy camps and related online
community, and to concentrate the
camps’ efforts in exposing students
to STEM disciplines earlier in their
education careers. We performed an
online community analysis, and assessed pre-and-post information that
we acquired through surveys. (See Aritajati et al. for an early paper on our
work [ 1].) While I was mostly involved
as a researcher, I also had the opportunity to participate as an instructor.
I taught web development and robotics courses to local high-school and
middle-school students in the area.
Their devotion and ambition to learn,
especially that of younger female students, truly amazed me. This research
brought me back to the beginning of
my academic career.
NEVER UNDERES TIMATE
YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
The process of checking boxes un-
der certain categories is something I
am accustomed to when applying for I m