Syeda Samiha

Syeda Samiha

Expanding what it means to be STEM

Syeda Samiha wasn’t sure if she would fit in as an Oakton STEM Scholar. Initially, she wanted to study computer science, but quickly realized she wanted an education that allowed her to be creative and explore many of her interests.

“I felt like I had to choose between studying computer science and graphic design. I didn’t really know where I belonged, but the STEM Scholars Program helped me figure that part out. I wanted to join because the program provides financial support, personal development opportunities and encourages people of color, women, and LGBTQIA students to apply. Through the program I was connected with my mentor, Gloria Liu, and she was the person to convince me I deserved a chance to pursue my interests in this field. I took a mix of computer science and ceramics classes and gained skills I knew I wanted to build on.”

A tailored internship

Syeda realized how difficult it would be to find an internship specific to her interests, so she reached out to Mario Borha, a STEM professor at Oakton, for help.

“Oakton helped me figure out what I wanted to explore and that’s UI/UX design, but I was looking for a very specific experience in the field. Mario connected me to an internship in Oakton’s marketing and communications department and within 10 weeks, I learned how to create and customize websites, prioritize in web design and worked with professionals in the field. That hands-on learning was so valuable and working in that office taught me how to look at web design from a marketing lens.”

Breaking barriers and building web pages

After earning an Associates degree at Oakton, Syeda decided to make the most of her time at Oakton and enroll in a certificate program before transferring. She knows that she isn’t alone in feeling the weight of transferring because it can be a big step to take, but she wants to encourage others to believe in themselves and pursue their interests.

“Eventually, I would've figured it all out, but the STEM Scholars Program made me realize I don’t have to do it alone and there is value in connecting with people and the guidance they can provide. I felt intimidated pursuing my interests in STEM because of the stereotypes that only certain people belong in the field. I want others to be motivated and feel compelled to pursue their interests when they see someone like me, a student, a Muslim hijabi girl making web pages and showing other people they can as well.”