Computer science sophomore seeks to inspire young women in STEM

September 5, 2019   /   by Ryley McGinnis

Students Mia Baden (left) and Aachal Thapa (right) staff a table at the Virginia Cybersecurity Education conference to introduce Mason Engineering's new bachelor's and master's programs in cybersecurity. Photo provided.

Computer science sophomore Mia Baden knows that deciphering cryptic codes and tackling the computer science curriculum can be difficult for students, especially when they feel unrepresented in the field. That’s why she spent her summer learning from female leaders in STEM and sharing what she learned with high school students.

Through Mason Engineering’s STEM outreach program, Baden taught students about coding and Java, hoping to inspire young women to pursue computer science as a career.

Baden knew she had big shoes to fill when she took on this role. The Volgenau School has many STEM Outreach camps and classes with great student mentors for the last several years.

“I wanted to inspire these students, especially the few girls,” says Baden.

She also attended the Loudon County Chamber of Commerce’s Women in STEM event in July where she met successful career women. She believes that if women keep making strides in these fields and teaching other women, eventually all women will feel they can succeed in any area of STEM.

Doing well in “computer science is about not giving up,” says Baden. She attributes her ability to teach and her perseverance in her courses to women who have helped her.

Along with the women from the Women in STEM conference, Baden says her high school math teacher, Mason Engineering graduate students, and Associate Professor and Executive Director for STEM Outreach Kamaljeet Sanghera all encouraged her to pursue the field of computer science and have helped her when things were difficult.

“Professor Sanghera is inspiring. She makes me feel like I have to keep going, keep giving 100 percent,” says Baden.

Baden will continue working with Sanghera through a grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, mentoring high school girls in computer science.

“Mia is very passionate about her field, and that is what she is good at passing on,” says Sanghera. “She serves as a role model for young women and shows them that computer science is a field to pursue.”