From STEM to Harvard Business School: an AAUW Millenial’s Story
Recently we caught up with AAUW student affiliate and former National Student Advisory Council (SAC) member Ellen Thuy Le. After attending a California Tech Trek camp, Le served on the 2011–12 SAC. As a recent graduate of Stanford University, Le will be working at a startup company for the next two years and then attending Harvard Business School.
Q: What was your Tech Trek experience like?
A: Tech Trek was pretty new when I joined. I came as a camper in 2004, when I was about 11 or 12 years old. It was a really transformative experience; no one was hesitant with helping me or explaining anything. Tech Trek was the first time I didn’t have male classmates looking down on me if I did well or making me feel weird for loving science and math. It was this amazing environment where I felt supported and empowered to be the best that I could be in the science and math fields. I also made friends with some of the incredible young women there who ended up doing amazing things. I came back two years later to be a junior counselor, and then I came back a year after that to be a senior counselor. To this day I remain inspired by the people and the meaningful experiences I had at Tech Trek.
Q: What did you study at Stanford, and do you have plans for graduate school?
A: I studied chemical engineering at Stanford. There aren’t many girls in that field, but I stuck with it as a result of a variety of factors (like personal drive, interest, and familial support), which include my experience at Tech Trek.
As for grad school, I’m going to go get my master’s degree in two years. Harvard offers an exciting early admissions process called the 2+2 Program that college seniors can apply to. If you get in, you can go to Harvard Business School two years (or more) after graduation. In the interim, I will gain professional work experience as one of the first employees at a brand new, super early-stage perfume startup in San Francisco called Pinrose. It’s my dream job.
Q: After your involvement with Tech Trek, you served on the SAC. What were your takeaways from that experience?
A: My main takeaway from the experience was that there is so much work left to be done to achieve our ultimate goal of equality. There are so many young women out there who are absolutely, incredibly brilliant. I’ve met some of them and have been blown away by their drive and intelligence. All they need are the right resources and a gentle push to reach their full potential, and that’s where AAUW and programs like Tech Trek can come in.
Girls also should make it a goal to support one another more in their academic and professional endeavors. We are more collaborative by nature, so having support from one another will really help in making big strides. I still communicate with girls from my term on the SAC, and we share achievements, frustrations, and dreams. I think having that sort of community makes a big difference.
Q: Can you talk about your experience attending the 2012 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders?
A: It was so much fun! In terms of the supportive and electric environment, NCCWSL was like Tech Trek but on a bigger scale. It was all about empowering women, which made for an amazing atmosphere. Before the conference, SAC helped select workshops for NCCWSL. Once we got there, we met and connected with the incredible Women of Distinction. I got to meet and introduce Liza Donnelly, who is just as sweet and hilarious as one would imagine. I went just before finals week, which made things a bit tough, but it was 100 percent worth it. I made a lot of friends that I still keep in touch with. I think everyone needs to go to NCCWSL.
Q: Do you hope to continue working with women in STEM?
A: Absolutely. I’ve come back to Tech Trek almost every year since serving as a counselor to speak (in the past to discuss college, this summer to speak at Professional Women’s Night) and may look into taking on a bigger role in the future. Big or small, I will always find a way to continue supporting this cause. It means a lot to me.
This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships interns Samantha Lambert and Mabinty Quarshie.