Five Questions with Asiyah Speight ’24 Fowler School of Engineering Student Highlight
March 30, 2023
Name: Asiyah Speight
Year: Junior (2024)
Major: Data Sciences and Biological Sciences
Extracurriculars and Involvements: Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Fish Interfaith Center, and Wallace All Faiths Chapel Assistant
- Where do you usually spend most of your time on campus?
Usually, it depends on the time of the day. I like to come back to the Tech Shop. I found a nice small community there and everyone is nice and sweet. I tend to go to the library but sometimes it gets too quiet and distracting. I also usually go to the Cross-Cultural Center in Argyros Forum (AF) and occasionally I’ll eat lunch there as well. Other times, I’ll be in the Student Union, but you’ll usually find me either in Schmid or Fowler sitting around or discovering new places.
- What has your experience been like as a Muslim woman of color in STEM?
I come from a community that, as a Black woman, is usually hit with a lot of mismanagement. It’s interesting because, as a Muslim, we have different beliefs. I go into this field and have to differentiate between having a discussion and having an argument with those who are different. I’ve come to the realization that I’ll usually end up being the only person who looks like me in the field. Not many Muslim Black girls are usually in that space, so hopefully, I can be that person to shatter that glass ceiling.
For Data Sciences, I’ve always wanted to learn about data. I took a statistics class and enjoyed it and loved it very much. I don’t like coding, though (laughs). I don’t mind learning about coding, but I prefer the visualization of the data and talking about it. It’s very different because I know I’m probably going to be the only person who looks like me in that class. For me, I’m hoping I can inspire others of a similar background, and tell them “yes, we can do this.” Our religion has emphasized that we are the next generation of caretakers for our families, and to be educated regardless of who we are.
- Why did you choose Data Sciences?
I wanted to go into bioinformatics, and Data Sciences would have given me the bridge to get into that field. I’ve always wanted to learn how people think regarding data. Data scientists predict how data will be in the future but I’m curious how that prediction will be right and wrong. COVID was the biggest thing ever and opened my eyes to the field. Data scientists were part of the team who tried to predict the numbers for the media and the population overall. I also noticed how people would immediately trust data without doing the research and I wanted to work towards fixing that problem on a research level, especially for my community.
- Who has been your favorite professor so far? Why?
I took a class called Business Analytics and I enjoyed that class. Although the work was a lot, I enjoyed it a lot because the professor didn’t look at me as just being Muslim. He was open to discussion and for me to have a talk with him. I had a project that was on the mortality rate of Black women during childbirth, but I hit a wall because that data was classified. I ended up doing a different project and he helped me find a different path. Shoutout to Professor Frenzel! I also enjoyed Engineering 101 with Nicole Wagner and Nanotechnology with Dean Lyon.
- What advice do you have for Fowler students? Especially transfer students?
Understand that you may not get priority for classes. You’ll have to take a break between taking your big classes. Don’t take your 300 and 400-level courses straight after community college. I struggled during my first semester due to the course load while working two jobs. You need a break from working those first two years in community college. The transition is big. Also, make sure to understand your financial aid and what you got offered. Plan your schedule ahead and learn your college’s academic advising. It’s okay to change your major, too. Everything can be in your own capacity.