I am Dia Brown and I graduated from the University of Vermont (UVM) in December 2021 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineer. I am pursuing a PhD in Architectural Engineering with a focus on structural forces from Penn State University. I am the honored to be the recipient of the College of Engineering Dean’s Assistantship, which is fully covering my college tuition and other costs.
My interest in engineering began when I met Ms. Rhonda Thomas, the President and Founder of Launching Educational Assistance Programs Forward, Inc. (LEAP Forward, Inc.) She started a conversation with me and she learned that I was passionate about the environment. She suggested that I consider environmental engineering and invited me to come with her to a conference around Black women in STEM. At first I wasn’t too interested but said I would go. At that conference I learned what an environmental engineer does. I learned that I could have a career in material science. From that moment on, I became invested in engineering and felt comfortable in this field because LEAP Forward Inc. was invested in me.
LEAP Forward Inc. provided me college counseling that I would not have otherwise received. I learned about and joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Jr. chapter in Southern Maryland sponsored by LEAP Forward Inc. Through this organization, I had access to people who looked like me in various fields of engineering.
Because of my connection to LEAP Forward Inc. and joining NSBE, I received the first NSBE Founder’s Award and Scholarship ($5,000). I was so honored to be selected for this National award. This money, along with University and LEAP Forward scholarships allowed me to matriculate at UVM my first college year.
During my junior year, I switched my major to civil engineering. Part of my decision was from what I learned about the field from LEAP Forward. LEAP Forward also supported my creative writing hobby and featured one of my poems, “An Engineer’s Job” in their signature 2020 Scholarship Program booklet; page 6!
I was also supported financially through LEAP Forward, Inc. I paid for my tuition on my own. The scholarships I received from LEAP Forward, Inc. allowed me to work less hours and focus more on my class work. When I ended up needing an extra semester LEAP Forward, Inc. provided me a scholarship to finish out that final semester.
I support this organization and know this work needs to continue because I would not be going for my PhD without the support LEAP Forward Inc. has given me every step of the way. This organization is a shining example of how this kind of support can change a life. I am one of the many individuals this organization has helped and I hope this continues in the future.