At St. Kate's we celebrate women every day and during Women's History Month Her Campus STCU is celebrating Peace Sinyigaya. Peace is majoring in Physics and minoring in Mathematics. Many individuals at St. Kate's may have bumped into Peace at one point as Peace is super involved on-campus. Recently, Peace co-founded Color of STEM and is their social media director, she's also been an Orientation Leader, the former President of WiMSE (Women in Math, Science, and Engineering), a former Administrative Affairs Co-Chair on student Senate, former High Altitude Ballon Team Researcher, and she's held many more leadership positions! Get to know more about Peace down below.
Q: How would you describe your senior year thus far?
Peace: My senior year has been a roller coaster of opportunities and life changes. This year is one of my hardest years academically. I’m taking some of the hardest undergraduate physics courses at the same time and while they are definitely challenging, I’ve been loving learning about topics like lagrangian mechanics and electrodynamics. I started an engineering summer internship at Vixar Inc. in Plymouth, Minnesota over the summer and I’m currently still working there, learning so many new skills and concepts. As this is my last year, I tried some of the things I’ve been really meaning to try since my first couple of years. I was a first-year orientation leader, I’ve been a peer mentor for some wonderful students of color, I joined the Student Senate as Administrative Affairs Co-Chair, and I Co-Founded a new club: Color of STEM! I also continued through last semester being the president of WiMSE. With all of my school responsibilities, my health, and the many things I do outside of school (senior sound engineer, for example), it has been a busy year!
Q: You recently co-founded Color of Stem, why did you believe this was something that St. Kate's students needed? How has the experience of creating this club been?
Peace: I became WiMSE President during junior year and it was a great opportunity to encourage and provide resources for women in or interested in STEM. I really enjoyed being able to do this for women and saw the importance in it. Women are an underrepresented group in STEM but they are not the only marginalized identity in STEM. Starting my sophomore year, I always had in the back of my mind how great it would be to have something like this for women of color because they are even more of a marginalized identity in STEM. When I heard that Ngozi was interested in creating something like this as well, I contacted her and we began brainstorming.
In an effort to be inclusive to our non-binary and trans friends, we wanted to open it up to people of color, in general. I started thinking about the fact I didn’t know any statistics on their numbers in STEM and looked into numbers on the LGBTQ+ community as a whole; it just felt right to open it up to them, as well. As the rainbow is frequently used symbolically with the LGBTQ+ community, we felt like Color of STEM would be a fitting name to include all of us.
Many of my friends of color have had unfair experiences in their STEM related classes, especially in the lab, and I’ve also had these same experiences. We are viewed as less competent, treated differently in lab by other students, and have fewer opportunities. I’ve heard a few times now from different students that they were told to aim lower when they shared their goals with their professors but didn’t hear these statements towards their white counterparts. I wanted a safe space for students of color to celebrate their STEM goals and accomplishments, to share their concerns, to learn more about these injustices, and to just have fun. We were already having many of these conversations amongst ourselves so I wanted to make a formal group for it, just like WiMSE.
We got chartered in the fall and had our first event in February. We hosted a Cornbread and Chili Night with MIPS about impostor syndrome, something that disproportionately impacts people from marginalized communities.
I’m excited to continue to build our community, support one another, and grow together.
Q: Seniors are close to wrapping up another month in their last semester! What will you miss most about St. Kate’s?
Peace: I am going to miss the people so much. I’ve built so many wonderful relationships with other students, faculty, and staff and it’s going to be weird not running into a friendly face wherever I’m going and getting a hug from them. I will miss being able to collapse on that comfy couch in MIPS and just chatting about anything and everything with the students and staff there. I’m going to miss the late night study sessions in the Center for Women filled with so many laughs and tears, “positive procrastination” and the dance lessons with Johara. I’m going to miss being surrounded by so many wonderful, smart women in my STEM world; white men dominate the world of physics and engineering so it will be rare to work with someone that looks like me (for now!)
Q: If you could talk to first-year Peace what would you advise her?
Peace: I would advise first-year me to apply for more scholarships. I was always so scared to because I never felt qualified enough but the few I applied for really paid off and helped me with a lot. I would also advise my first-year self but also my current self to prioritize my physical and mental health more. Throughout my time at St. Kate’s, I’ve had health battle after health battle. It wasn’t until recently that I began to really take time for myself and to advocate for myself when it came to accommodations.
Q: While we all know we wouldn’t be where we are without other people, who are the people (faculty/staff/students/departments/etc) you’d like to thank for your experience at St. Kate’s and why?
Peace: I can say with confidence that MIPS is a huge reason I am graduating. The amount of support that office has and continues to provide is amazing. I can’t even begin to name all of the souls that have touched me there during my time at St. Kate’s.
There have been so many faculty that have been very supportive of me and my goals. These are a few: the entire math department, Erick Agrimson, and Cecilia Konchar Farr. I’m also very thankful for the following (current and former) staff and administration: Roslyn Udairim, Kim Muñoz, Donna Hauer, Deb Miner, Anh-Hoa Nguyen, Sia Vang, Lynda Szymanski and so many more people.
Q: Do you have plans after graduating?
Peace: I would like to go to graduate school for Mechanical Engineering and work at an engineering company while I do that. I am hoping to finalize the details of where soon.
Q: What advice would you give to women who are entering into STEM as a career, especially to women of color?
Peace: Please do not forget that you are just as smart, just as deserving, and just as capable as other students and people in STEM. I know that it is hard to be in a field where you are often times the only person in the room that looks like you and to be treated differently because of it. The worst thing you can do is start to believe that you are any less worthy of being in that room.
If you need advice or just need to chat, please contact me. I love helping others and want you to be successful.
Peace is a talented, ambitious, community-creator woman of color and we are so delighted and honored to spotlight all her achievements! We can't wait to see what you'll do after graduation Peace.