In 9th grade chemistry lab, I was working with a beautiful sky blue metal salt called copper-sulfate. This chemical compound is bonded to water, which gives it a bright blue hue. As I heated the crystal in a clay bowl the water began to boil off and I was left with a white chalky substance. I dropped this same unattractive compound into a glass of water and instantly it returned to its beautiful blue color. It was in that moment, I realized I wanted to be a world-class chemical engineer.
Making the decision to become an engineer was much easier said than executed. I have experienced multiple difficulties including academic struggles and discrimination. Chemical Engineering is a major that requires you to excel in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and problem solving. Throughout high school, I struggled in many of my math courses beginning with Algebra. Instead of giving up or taking a lower level math I tried harder. I woke every morning at 5am to make it to school early and receive extra tutoring. My efforts were successful and by my senior year I was taking AP calculus, AP chemistry, and honors physics. I began my first year at Penn State University with a strong educational foundation. I experienced many similar academic struggles within my college career as well, but approached these obstacles using the same determination I exhibited in high school.
Outside of my academics hurdles, I also had to overcome discrimination within the college of engineering. As a first year student, I was determined to obtain a summer internship opportunity and gain work experience. I received an offer from Dow Chemical Company, but they required me to complete three co-op terms. Because I was unsure about working during school semesters, I sought out the advice of an engineering co-op advisor. Unfortunately, he only provided me with words of discouragement explaining “How is possible that a freshman obtained an internship with Dow? What did you say to them to get this job? A freshman has never bothered me before with questions?” I was extremely hurt by this experience and became even more confused as to what I should do. Thankfully, my parents, friends, and fellow students provided me with support and washed my worries away.
I decided to accept the co-op position with Dow and became excited about the future learning opportunities. As a junior, I am so glad that I accepted Dow’s offer. I have since completed 2 summer internships and 2 co-ops between 3 different companies including Dow, Kraft, and Merck. I am also returning to Dow in the summer 2013 for my third co-op rotation! I don’t regret any of the decisions I have made and I have learned to disregard comments of individuals who do not have my best interest at heart. My graduation will signify that I am one step closer to becoming a world class engineer. It will signify that all my accomplishments and failures were not in vain.
DiversityJobs.com’s scholarship program is proud to announce Dionna Littles as one of the finalists for its December 2012 application deadline. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.