VISTA Spotlight – Emily Liptow


Name: Emily Liptow

Host Site: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Alma Mater: Ohio State University

Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering

Background: I’ve always liked school. Yes, I’m that kind of gal. During my four years at Ohio State, I packed a lot in, academically and beyond. I chose to study Industrial and Systems Engineering, which made for a pretty full course load in and of itself, but I was always looking for other classes and opportunities to satisfy my many interests. Outside of my major, I enrolled in sociology classes, sustainability seminars, and entrepreneurship classes. I also minored in dance, which provided me with a wonderful artistic outlet and sense of balance (physically and mentally) throughout my college career.

SWE Outreach Training Group PicOutside of the classroom, I worked as a resident advisor and was very involved in a dialogue-based social justice student organization. I also got involved with a service learning organization, The Girls Circle Project, which gave me the opportunity to work with a group of 9th grade girls to create community among their peers while engaging in discussion around issues that especially affect girls and women. These experiences fostered my interest in race, privilege, feminism, microaggressions, and much more. I developed foundational skills for engaging in dialogue around these topics, and I learned that I have a lot more learning to do (and always will).

The CSU STEM VISTA program has allowed me to continue learning about social justice in the context of STEM and higher education.  I have really enjoyed learning more about the inner workings of academia while reflecting on my own engineering education experience.

Emily Strong SelfAccomplishments: One accomplishment that I’m especially excited about is my
collaboration with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Towards the beginning of the year, I began working with two SWE students to put together a STEM Outreach training. In the training, we addressed diversity issues in STEM fields (i.e. the underrepresentation of women and people of color) and the importance of being role models to younger students. We talked about negative stereotypes of engineers and scientists that can prevent some people from ever considering these fields and thus perpetuate a dominant culture within STEM. Initially, we were nervous about how the training would be received since it is very interactive and tackles some challenging topics, but it ended up going very well! The SWE students who participated opened up about their experiences as women in engineering, which led to a rich discussion. After the training, we received great feedback from the participants, which encouraged us to plan another event.  We are currently working with a faculty member from the Women and Gender Studies department at Cal Poly to plan a dialogue-based event for SWE. I am excited to support this collaboration, and I hope that it will lead to many more!

Advice: My advice to future AmeriCorps or CSU STEM VISTA members is to treat your year of service as an extension of your education. It is by no means a “year off.” While I have been kept busy with lots of projects on the job, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my personal experience in college and learn about topics and issues that I’ve always been interested in. Inside and outside my work as a VISTA, I have been able to broaden my IMG_6198knowledge of engineering education, qualitative and mix-method research, higher education pedagogy, critical theory, solidarity, and civic engagement. Ultimately, my advice is to take advantage of the mentors, resources, and opportunities that will be available to you during your year of service!

Future Goals: My experience as a VISTA has given me lots of new ideas for my future. I’ve been exposed to many opportunities in engineering and academia that interest me, and I’ve learned that I like working with students and teaching. Being on a college campus, working with faculty, and getting involved with research definitely has encouraged me to look into grad school (plus I’ve always liked school :)). At this point, I am still uncertain about what will be next for me, but I’m okay with that because right now I’m really enjoying the work I do. I am gaining some great experience and connections that will be valuable in just about whatever I decided to do.


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