MTSU STEM Mentors

Dara Dixon

Dara Dixon

How would you describe your college experience?

My college experience was eye opening and very rewarding. It was a time that I learned a lot about myself and my intellectual abilities that hadn’t been challenged prior to college. It was an opportunity for me to be confident in myself and know that I had the knowledge and skills to follow my dream and could accomplish any goal that I set out to achieve. College opened up doors for me to meet exceptional people and mentors that would remain in my life after I graduated.

When did you know that you wanted to major in a STEM discipline?

I feel very blessed that I knew at a young age, around 8th grade, that I wanted to be in a STEM discipline (nursing). I assisted in caring for my sick father at home. In accompanying him to many doctor appointments, I quickly discovered that I wanted to be a nurse. This is also why I make it a priority to participate in EYH every year so hopefully I can encourage young women in that same age group.

What would you tell a middle or high school girl about careers in STEM?

I feel that careers in STEM are some of the most versatile, rewarding, and challenging careers out there. There are so many different avenues one can take within one degree/career. This is great for those that may get bored easily and need to be challenged to keep an interest in their everyday jobs. Also, in most STEM careers we can be the first to experience new technology, breakthrough research, and top secret advances before any others in the world.

What should middle and high school girls be doing to prepare themselves for college and a STEM careers?

Research the degree/field you want to enter. Make sure that you have baseline knowledge of what your everyday “job” would look like. If you have questions or aren’t sure, start now to find a mentor or someone that can help you get on the path to reach your goals. Next, ASK QUESTIONS. There are no bad/dumb questions. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. Also, apply for any extracurricular activities you can in the STEM career you are interested in, i.e. EYH, camps, internships, sponsored programs, etc. There is no better way to help you decide if you will be content in your career than hands on experience. Lastly, don’t forget to dream BIG!

What advice do you have for teachers and counselors who are assisting students prepare for a STEM major and career?

Be patient and be an active listener. Students may have a lot of questions when trying to decide on a STEM career. Students view teachers and counselors as their first line of communication to help answer questions or concerns they have. It is important that you hear them out and are able to be patient with them. Also, don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t know and help find them a mentor that does. STEM careers encompass a large variety of jobs and there is no way to know everything about all of them. It is ok to not know the answer, but being able to guide them down the correct path is key.

What career advice would you give to girls if you only have two minutes?

Stay focused and never give up. STEM careers are challenging and will push you to your intellectual limits. However, if you work hard and stay dedicated, STEM careers are also some of the most rewarding. Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes as that will allow you to excel the next time you try. Lastly, don’t forget there are so many different options in STEM careers-don’t’ get bored, just try something new.

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