WVC student attends world’s largest gathering of women technologists
Feb. 25, 2020
Dr. Karina Vega-Villa, MESA program director, (509) 669-1594
Libby Siebens, WVC community relations executive director, 509-682-6436 (Mon.-Thurs.)
A WVC sophomore was one of 14 undergraduate women nationwide to receive a scholarship to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.
Priscilla Nunez, 19, is studying electrical engineering and computer science at WVC. She plans to transfer to Washington State University to continue her education. Priscilla was encouraged to apply for the scholarship to attend by Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) Program Director Dr. Karina Vega-Villa and Retention Coordinator Dr. Bobbi Johnson. MESA helps underrepresented students achieve their full potential and contribute in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and science by providing a range of academic support.
The conference features tech giants including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft and emphasizes the roles of women in tech. Priscilla said the organization’s goal is “50/50 by 2025” — equal men and women represented in technology fields by 2025.
The mission resonates with Priscilla.
“I wanted to look for opportunities for myself and for others to bring back here,” she said. “It’s hard to be a woman of color and a first-generation student in the STEM field because, statistically, I’m most likely to drop out of the STEM careers and I am more likely to be paid unfairly, as well,” she said.
One program she is looking to start at WVC is the College Loops program. College Loops is the college version of Girls Who Code, a program for middle school and high school students that aims to close the gender gap in technology by empowering female students to code and deepen their understanding of computer science.
With her education in both technology and engineering, Priscilla hopes to work on wearable technology.
“I want to do something that combines jewelry with wearable tech,” she said. “Especially as a small person, my priority is safety.”
She’s interested in creating items that look and function as jewelry that also have practical applications — like a ring or pendant that can call 911 in an emergency.
She said she first gained an interest in technology and engineering in middle school.
“In seventh grade I had a math teacher that saw the potential in me and she recommended that I join the robotics club at Clovis Point Intermediate School to try it out and see if I’d be interested in continuing,” she said. “At the time, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer, but it continued to evolve, from engineering to computer science to electrical engineering.”
Priscilla graduated from Eastmont High School and came to WVC with plans of transferring a four-year university later.
“I’m glad that I went here because it’s better, to be honest,” she said. “I feel like I have a community. In the MESA center, I have a family there and we all support each other and we’re all getting through these classes together.”
Priscilla discovered MESA at WVC’s fall showcase.
“Ever since I started going and making friends there, we help each other with homework and I’m pretty much there every day,” she said. This is the second year that students at WVC can access resources through MESA. This year, Dr. Vega-Villa wants to focus on developing and strengthening partnerships in the community and industry.
“We want to create opportunities for more students like Priscilla to reach their potential and we cannot do that without partners,” she said. “This is a community effort.”
Priscilla said part of her motivation for improving opportunities for women in tech comes from her little sister.
“My little sister is 10 right now and she’s looking into the STEM field and she has more options now than I did when I was younger,” she said. “I’m trying to encourage her and help her curiosity grow. She’s the one that’s driving me to keep going.”
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