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Reconsidering STEM: A Reflection on the Women in STEM Panel

This past week Her Campus Kenyon, along with the Psychology Club and the Crozier Center for Women, hosted a Women in STEM discussion panel. Professor of Mathematics, Judy Holdener, Professor of Chemistry, Kerry Rouhier, and Professor of Psychology, Sarah Murnen, shared their experiences as women in STEM fields. As someone who came into Kenyon fully expecting to study the humanities, hearing them speak about being challenged as women in predominantly male fields while still pursuing subjects that they are passionate about was not only inspiring, but also it made me question my academic path.

My sophomore year of high school, I seriously considered majoring in math, but the thought of going beyond Calculus II and Statistics scared me away from taking more math, and I couldn’t think of doing anything math related as a career. Additionally, my love for reading and the fact that I annotate books for fun drew me to look more closely to English programs. I came to college with the idea that I would never take a math class again.

However, after hearing Professor Holdener speak about how much she loves math and having her tell those of us in the audience that if we have even thought about taking a math class at Kenyon, we should, I began to seriously consider doing something that I had written off long ago.

In the process of deciding that I would never take another math course, I completely forgot how much I enjoy the subject. Since second grade, I have been placed in advance math classes. In fourth grade, I thrived on practicing my multiplication tables as fast as I could. In Geometry, I was the only student who actually enjoyed doing proofs; I loved working backwards through the logic of solving the problem. In Calculus, I was genuinely excited to find derivatives and integrals; using the tricks I learned to easily solve them made it like more of a game than like work.

As the professors in the panel addressed, there is an unfortunately low number of women in STEM fields. Because of this, in addition to how quickly I progressed in math and how much I loved it, I have always been urged to pursue a career in STEM. But after being told so often how good I was at math, I felt more pressured to pursue a STEM career instead of it being my own choice. This may seem like a poor reason to stop pursuing something that I enjoyed doing, but during a time where I was already stressed and entangled in choosing colleges to apply to and doing everything I could to get into them, the thought of majoring in math and choosing a school with the sole purpose of doing so terrified me. I liked math, but it wasn’t what I was truly passionate about, and I’d much rather spend the rest of my life surrounded by books than by equations.

However, since going to the Women in STEM panel, I have begun to realize that even though I do not want to major in math, a decision that I still don’t regret, it doesn’t mean that I can’t take math courses at Kenyon, and it especially does not mean that I can’t enjoy them. I’ve learned that it’s okay to love a subject without wanting to major in it, and I’ve learned that women in STEM fields are awesome.

Image Credit: Annmarie Morrison

Jenny Nagel

Kenyon '20

Jenny is a writer and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Kenyon. She is currently a senior English and Psychology double major at Kenyon College, and in her free time she loves to sing, cuddle cats, and fangirl over musicals.
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