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Student Survivors: Shelby Snow

November 5, 2015 - Chelsey Thorpe


Q. What is your name and current major?

A. Shelby Snow, Electrical Engineering and Applied Math

Q. Where did you graduate from high school?

A. I graduated from Belen High School in 2010.

Q. When you first started college, did you imagine your academic career would take shape like it has?

A. No, not at all. I originally started college at Adam State University in Alamosa, CO under the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) Program. I was an engineering major but I intended to transfer to CU Boulder once I obtained in-state tuition so I could pursue a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. I ultimately transferred to the University of New Mexico (UNM) in my sophomore year and began studying Electrical Engineering.

Q. What challenges have you faced coming to UNM from a rural high school?

A. In high school, I was in an accelerated math program with three other students. We took our math courses at Belen High School but we earned college credit through UNM Valencia. Having four people in your high school math classes is much different than 50+ students in UNM mathematics courses. I was with the same math teacher in high school for all four years. He was able to give all of his students individual attention and track our progress. That is really not possible with the large class sizes at UNM.

I often meet people who are shocked that I'm an engineering major when I tell them I'm from Belen. I'm not sure why there seems to be some preconceived notion that if you are from a small town, you are somehow capable of less or will have less opportunity to major in STEM. I know there are challenges in coming from a small community, but if you have the drive you can succeed.

Q. How have you overcome these challenges?

A. I kept in contact with my high school math teacher. He has been super helpful and has been a great mentor. Once when I considered switching out of engineering, my former teacher encouraged me to stick it out and told me I would have more options later in life if I continued.

Q. What challenges have you faced as a female studying engineering?

A. The ratio of males to females studying engineering is really uneven. I have yet to have a female instructor in my engineering course work. I have had one female instructor, but that was in a mathematics course. I hope to have a family some time in the far distant future. It would be nice to have more female role instructors in engineering in general but also mothers to see that it is actually possible to have some kind of home-life balance in this field.

Even in my large engineering lectures, there are sometimes less than five other female students in the course with me. It has been discouraging at times to not have many females to relate to, study with, and ask for advice on some of this stuff.

Q. How have you overcome these challenges?

A. I was briefly involved in Society of Women Engineers (SWE) but mostly I got heavily involved in social student organizations on campus. This gave me a way to meet other women and have a support system.

Q. What advice would you give other undergraduate STEM students struggling with some of the same challenges as you?

A. My best advice is to keep going. At times it seems easier to switch your major, especially if all of your friends are non-STEM majors and friends in your major are all males, but the easiest path is not always the right one. I try to tell myself that continuing in Electrical Engineering will ensure that I have a stable future and an interesting career path. My #1 goal is to work in ride systems and controls in Imagineering with the Walt Disney Company. I think about this when my course work gets hard. I would advise other STEM students to keep their eyes on the prize too!