5 Things I Wish I Knew/Did as a STEM student

By Ami Ballard ‘20

Ami Ballard

Centre College Class of 2020

Biology Major (Pre-Nursing Track)

Louisville, Kentucky

What was your favorite experience at Centre College?

My favorite experience at Centre was my time serving as an Orientation Leader. Having the responsibility to welcome eager young adults to their new home for the next 4 years while serving as their mentor was very rewarding to me. This was rewarding – especially as a first-generation college student – since I personally had no idea about what to expect when I stepped foot onto Centre’s campus as a first year.

What opportunities are you involved in/will you be pursuing now that you have graduated Centre?

As a recent graduate, I have started my career at an assisted living facility in Louisville during my gap year. The company I work for provides me the opportunity to advance my career as a Certified Nursing Assistant, with the ability to qualify for new certifications throughout my time. During my gap year I also hope to take a few classes at a community college while applying to Accelerated BSN or MSN programs. My goal is to become a Nurse Anesthetist or potentially go into Midwifery.

What 5 things do you wish you knew/did as a STEM student?

  1. Plan Ahead – By the time I entered college, and throughout my first 2 years before declaring my major, I wish I would have physically made a list of all my academic interests and potential career goals and spoken to an advisor (or multiple advisors) in those fields. A lot of the stress of declaring a major is deciding what you can do with that major after you graduate, so take advantage of the resources at your school like faculty and staff who have experience!
  2. Be flexible – I wish I would have normalized changing interests and goals. I initially started off as a Psychology major due to the pressures around me, but determined that my ultimate passion was in Biology. I also jumped from pre-dentistry to pre-nursing within a year timespan. As you learn more, it is normal to change your opinion.
  3. Create a supportive environment – Surround yourself with colleagues and faculty who lift you up, not ones that you are constantly comparing yourself to and struggling to impress. Yes, it is okay to challenge yourself in the classroom, but you are an individual and on your own independent academic journey. Work hard for yourself! Additionally, practice self-love and positive self-talk!
  4. Get some real-world experience in your field – Shadow and/or participate in an internship! Experience is key, especially in STEM fields!!
  5. Find mentors – Lastly, I wish I had someone who had experienced what I was going through urging me forward in my studies. As a first generation, black woman in STEM, it was hard to find others in a similar position as me at Centre. In many of my classes I would literally be the only minority and only woman in the classroom! STEM, and college itself, is difficult. I wish I would have known that not everything was going to be easy to conquer. I often tried to reassure myself, and others around me, that the hard work will pay off, and whatever it is you want to do with your life, you can do it (even if you don’t know quite what that is)!

Any last words?

Feel free to use me as a resource! I wish I was able to talk to Centre alumni who went down a similar career path that I was interested in. Here is my contact information: amara.ballard1@gmail.com 

Written by Ami Ballard ‘20

Edited by Princess Allotey ’21 & Josh West ‘22


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