by W2WM Senior Program Assistant Andrea Baker
The Women in STEM Program virtually continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, though most college students across the country experienced difficult setbacks like housing, food security, unmet mental health needs, and whether they’d be able to build their resumes with job shadowing opportunities, fieldwork, internships, and other relevant work. Despite these setbacks and time lapses, we press on. Women in STEM Program mentee Irina Sbornova is finding ways to move forward with the guidance and support of her mentor Sandy Eldridge and their cats! Sandy is a career scientist with a passion for encouraging young people early on as they maneuver the challenges of life and expectations along the way.
Before beginning the WIS program, Irina transferred from a community college. Now she is an honors student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County pursuing a double degree in Psychology and Biology. When she began the program, Irina was looking for an experienced person, willing to share their wisdom.
“…it is okay for things not to work out the first time around.”
“My family moved to the US from Russia when I was twelve. Even though it’s been nine years, I still feel ‘new’ to the local culture, especially in the academic realm. I was not sure how to handle university life and get the most out of it. I wanted a person, who could aid me in finding the best path and sticking to it. And that’s where Sandy came in with much-needed advice! The most important thing I learned is that it is okay for things not to work out the first time around. I learned that there are many ways of getting to where you want to be, and rushing isn’t always beneficial.
I’ve also learned that there are people willing to help and guide me when I am not sure of what’s ahead. I am at the same place, doing the same thing, but there is one BIG difference – I now have a support system. Whether it’s sharing the joy of finishing up a semester or venting about the workload, there is now a person who will listen and encourage me. COVID-19 has made my first year at the university unusual to say the least. Having a mentor has undoubtedly made the transferring experience feel less chaotic.”
Irina’s Advice to Someone Seeking a Mentor
“My biggest take-away from the W2WM program is that there are many amazing women out there achieving awesome things every day! And that with time and dedication, I could be one of them!
Look for two key characteristics –
- Whether the person is accomplished in a field that interests you
- Whether the person’s personality matches your own. The second might be even more important than the first, as subject-specific expertise is not as crucial to a mentor-mentee relationship as building a sense of connection and trust.“
Sandy says, “It’s okay to go left or right when faced with those forks in the road.”
“It is truly a pleasure to have connected with Irina as her mentor. The Women in STEM Program is just as rewarding for me as I hope it is for her. I enjoy the opportunity to “pay back” for a long and rewarding career in science that I can honestly say is doing what I’ve always wanted to do since as far back as I can remember. Although our path changes, if we are passionate about the course, I believe a young woman starting out today can achieve her dreams. One thing I try to do as a mentor, is encourage confidence and not to expect to have your path marked clearly. It’s okay to go left or right when faced with those forks in the road. It will all work out. Believe in yourself and have faith in your journey! It is exciting to be “side-by-side” with Irina as she grows on her adventure! She’s an amazing young scientist!”