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

By Abby Akrong ‘20

A picture of Abby smiling in front of a building

Abby Akrong 

Centre College Class of 2020,  

 Politics & Mathematics Double Major  

Indiana Maurer J.D. Candidate Class of 2023  

Louisville, KY  

What was your favorite experience at Centre College?  

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite experience, but I would likely say either my semester abroad in London, or my CentreTerm trip to South Africa.  

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

I am currently pursuing my J.D. at Indiana Maurer, but the end goal of my studies is to become an attorney and eventually become a judge.  

What 7 things do you wish you knew/did as a Black STEM Major (with an extra)?  

  1. Find a community on campus ASAP: This is probably the most important piece of advice that I could give any Black student at Centre, but especially Black STEM majors. Find a group on campus where you feel like you can be yourself and be around people that you share some piece of your identity with. Without genuine community, your time at Centre will be inevitably difficult. 
  1. Prepare to be one of the only Black students in the room: In my math classes, I was often one of only people of color in the room. Thinking about my time at Centre, I don’t think I was ever in a math class with more than 3 Black people.  
  1. Something as simple as sitting near the other Black students in classes can be really helpful: When there are only a few of you in the classroom, make sure to sit even just on the same side as other Black students. In most of my Centre classes, I would look for other Black students when I entered the classroom on the first day and tried to sit with them. I had one friend that I sat next to (or near) in all of my math classes. I definitely did not do the best job at this, but I wish that I had sat near other Black students in all of my classes, especially my math classes.  
  1. Work with and encourage your fellow Black students: Using that same train of thought, if you do have a class with other Black students, work with them on homework or when studying, if that’s how you study. I found it helpful to have a friend who was better at a different type of math, so we could balance each other out when doing work. If you don’t study well in groups, I suggest that you simply study around other Black students whether it be in the library, Intercultural Suite, or other area. Just make sure that you don’t feel alone while you are working, but also that you are able to be as effective as possible.  
  1. Don’t doubt your ability to create change through your degree: As a Black STEM major, it can be easy to think that you can’t make a difference with your degree in the same way as other majors. However, don’t allow yourself to believe that lie. The work that you do with your STEM major can help the Black community just like any other major, when utilized for the good of the community just like any other major. *Note: It’s a privilege to get a college education. Use that privilege to inspire and help others.  
  1. Find faculty and staff who can encourage and pour into you: Centre is full of faculty and staff who truly care about their students. Many of these faculty and staff members are allies and want to help Black students at Centre. The key is to find those people, be real with them, and let them encourage you. I can’t imagine trying to make it through my time at Centre without some of the faculty and staff who listened to and encouraged, and sometimes even just smiled at me.  
  1. Remember who you are: If you don’t get anything else out of this post, I hope that you walk away knowing that you have to remember to be yourself. Be unapologetically who you are made to be. Don’t let Centre or STEM classes change who you are. Don’t change who you are to fit in with the people in your classes. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”    

Written by Abby Akrong ‘20  

Edited by Princess Allotey ’21 & Josh West ‘22 


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