Senior Spotlight: Franceine Welcome

Class Year: 2019

Hometown: Bridgeport, CT

Major (s): Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Minor (s): Africana Studies

Extracurricular activities: Science Leader, General Chemistry and Cells Tutor

What has been your favorite class and/or professor at Conn? 

My favorite class at Conn was Gender, Sexuality, and Race in Caribbean Culture. It was taught by Prof. Baldwin (Conn really did themselves a huge disservice by letting her go, but I digress.). As a Jamaican-born first-gen student, this was the first time I saw my culture being appreciated in academia, rather than being appropriated. We deconstructed many stereotypes such as the hypersexualization of Caribbean women and the Rastafarian man. Prof. Baldwin and this course was the reason I declared my Africana minor.

            My favorite professor at Conn is Marc Zimmer. Without him, I probably would have transferred or hated it here all four years. Marc’s guidance, advising and encouragement has greatly impacted my future career goals. Before meeting him, I never saw myself going straight to grad school for my Ph.D., or even becoming a college professor. Working in his lab has given me the confidence to know that I can accomplish anything I want, if I’m willing to work for it. Marc really advocates for students of color on this campus, and he inspires me to do the same. 

Describe a little your summer internship.

This past summer, I had an internship in Tanzania, working for a women’s empowerment non-profit organization, The Sasamani Foundation. There, I spent roughly two months teaching chemistry and biology labs in rural government secondary schools in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. This experience changed my life and the way I view things. I was not only teaching the students, but they taught me in different ways than a classroom ever has. I learned how important diversity and representation are in higher education. Simply seeing me as a scientist let other black girls know it was possible for them to also pursue science. This internship also allowed me to become familiar with the unique challenges that young women in East Africa face when it comes to achieving a higher education, especially in science. This experience impacted my career goals and what I see myself doing for the rest of my life. I would like to work as a professor and have my own research laboratory so that I can share the same light, passion, and excitement with students that were given to me during my first semester in college.

Post-graduation plans? Attending Stony Brook University to receive my Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Structural Biology

What is it like being a senior? Strange, really. I feel like college flew by way faster than high school. It feels good to know that although at many times I felt like I couldn’t do it, I’m almost finished. It’s also weird that I’m supposed to be an adult or something when I leave here! However, I’m super excited about this next chapter in my life.

Favorite:

Camel moment? Going to Puerto Rico with the Science Leaders my first year!

Spot on campus? Hale Laboratory and my room in Plant House

Show (s)? Grey’s Anatomy, Insecure

Current song on repeat? Twerk – City Girls ft. Cardi B

Go-to meal in Harris? A grilled cheese with a fried egg

Advice for first-years? 

            When I came to Connecticut College as a first-year student, like all other students, I was so excited to come to college to learn more about myself and pursue my dreams, all while having fun. What I would soon discover was that although I was only an hour away from home, I was in a completely different world. Coming from an economically disadvantaged background, an immigrant family and a being a first-generation student of color in the sciences made it almost impossible to relate to my peers at a predominately white institution. I would soon also learn that high school did not prepare me for college in the way that it did for many other students. Once bubbly and outspoken, it wasn’t long before I was too shy to ask for help from peers or professors, or to even look them in the eye. Still, I felt so proud and honored to be in a position to receive a college education that I did not let it get me down.

            Thankfully, I was able to find my footing as a part of the Science Leaders Program, and the corresponding first-year seminar ‘Illuminating Disease’. The Science Leader Program and that course provided mentoring and preparation for graduate and medical school for underrepresented students in the sciences. Through this program, my love for science grew exponentially, and I found a new passion; mentoring students of color. Each fall, when the new class of Science Leaders arrived on campus for orientation I would be here with them too, working as a mentor. I became so committed to doing everything I could to ensure they did not feel the same way I did when I started school. Along the way, I grew closer to the program director who shared the same interest and is now my thesis advisor. Working in his lab doing computational chemistry research helped me to become more confident in my abilities, reporting data and formulating conclusions. This regained confidence led me to work in other labs, teaching secondary school students in Tanzania, let me know that graduate school was a possibility for me. 

            To current first-year students, the best advice I can give is to not let imposter syndrome get the best of you! Everyone, and I truly mean everyone, in the sciences, is just faking it until they make it. Don’t let a bad grade get you down, grades don’t determine your worth or value. I would focus on finding other interests where students look like you and can relate to you. And find fun summer research! Summer internships do not have to suck, and in STEM, they also pay pretty well.

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