5 Things I Wish I Knew as a STEM Student

Ann Quaicoe 

Centre College Class of 2017 

  Psychology Major with Anthropology/Sociology Minor 

Worcester, MA by way of Kumasi, Ghana 

Ann Quaicoe has been able to work in the healthcare field as a behavioral therapist for children on the autism spectrum. She has also worked as a mental health associate in an emergency department. Ann is currently working as an administrative assistant at Harvard University while pursuing higher education. Her favorite experience at Centre was the Posse Plus retreats as well as any Bonner Scholars events – they offered a conduit for the Centre community to engage in difficult conversations in a productive environment. Her fun experiences are the carnival weekend, free movie nights, and meeting some incredible people who have become close friends even after Centre.  

What 5 things do you wish you knew/did as a STEM Major?    

  1. I wish I spent more time at Centre exploring what various options (outside the traditional career pathways) were available to me in the STEM field. Even though I recognized that STEM was a huge field, I came to Centre with a very specific idea of what I wanted to do/be in the future, so I was very tunnel visioned when it came to career moves. It wasn’t until after Centre that I was exposed to so many other career choices in STEM that better aligned with my personality, and interests. 
  1. I wish I took advantage of the resources offered by professors and even students. STEM is not an easy field, but the best part is most people in the field are extremely supportive. It is with this support (plus a lot of hard work and studying) that you can do well in STEM courses. Also, going to a professor’s office hours allows you to build a strong network which can be beneficial in the future (i.e., letters of recommendations for post-baccalaureate degrees and even career endorsements). 
  1. I wish I had developed, early on, a more adaptive study technique for my courses. It’s important to recognize classes you may need to engage with more critical thinking/analytical skills vs classes that can be learned through rote memorization. More often than not, STEM classes will require both skills in order to be successful and it would have been very helpful to have sharpened both skills in STEM 101 classes so that more advanced courses were slightly easier. 
  1. I wish I asked a lot more questions in class. I was definitely more timid in classes and found it difficult to ask questions for fear of seeming unprepared, but I only did myself a disservice because it meant spending more time teaching myself concepts that would’ve been clarified with questions. Chances are other people have the same questions as you do so not only do you help yourself by asking clarifying questions, but you also help fellow classmates better understand concepts. It even allows the professor to recognize if they need to adjust their teaching to better serve the class. 
  1. Lastly, I wish I recognized earlier that it was okay to step away from STEM overall. It was instilled in me at a very young age that STEM was the only way to go. The only way to make money and the only way to live well. I think this very much fed into my close-minded approach in college. But it is perfectly okay to explore other fields and as you learn more about yourself (either at Centre or beyond) you may realize that you are more interested and more excited about a non-STEM field. This does not mean you are not smart enough or hardworking enough to pursue a career in STEM, but you want to enjoy what you will be doing long term! 

Any last words?  

HAVE FUN!!! Take some random and obscure classes that interest you (you often learn the most about yourself in those classes!). Meet new people. Don’t allow Centre and its environment to discourage you from your dreams because you are Black. NETWORK! Be kind and supportive of one another. 

Written by Ann Quacioe ’17

Edited by Princess Allotey ’21 & Josh West ‘22 

2/22/21

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