PLEN Taught Me I Can Be Myself and Still Be Successful 

As an undergrad studying Nursing throughout the past 3 and a half years, I have devoted my entire academic career toward learning how to save lives. I became focused on the traditional hospital setting of Nursing. I aspired and still aspire to land myself in an intensive care unit, caring for patients in highly critical conditions. It wasn’t until after a hectic day of back-to-back classes that I stumbled across an email in my Outlook Inbox. The email had PLEN typed in bold lettering, and also included in this message was Women in STEM Policy.

I aimed to ignore this email, considering it as another spam message from my school’s Women’s Leadership Office. I was about to click the trash icon until I saw “Scholarship to Washington, DC.” This all sounded too enticing. I thought to myself, “Okay might as well. It’s my senior year of college. Let’s graduate and end my stressful journey with a bang.” Well, despite my idea of a “bang” at the time of my application process for this opportunity, this “bang” was indeed one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself in my undergrad career.

Being an introvert by nature, I knew that I was taking a huge risk of possibly exposing my shy and timid nature. This did not matter anymore by the time I arrived with my classmates at the nearby airport. I already knew that I would be in social positions that would push me to leave my comfort zone. I was flying alone to the other side of the country for the first time in my life without my family. I was also not too familiar with the other PLEN Scholars from my school. A university has a large and diverse population, and you may go to the same school with thousands of other students that you may not meet until graduation day. I may have been intimidated by the circumstances, but I learned to ease my internal tension by allowing myself to be open.Life is full of challenges after all.

Attending all the panels and listening to all the speakers present for PLEN has opened new doors for me. I learned that having a STEM degree can allow you to do many influential things that can create an impact for lives around the country and even around the world. What truly matters is that you are driven and have enough passion to carry you to your next destination. Maybe you have to move across the country without a job to find your special niche. Maybe you have a degree that you are passionate about but would like to take on another route that involves having a background of knowledge completely foreign to your undergraduate major. Everyone is an individual and is entitled to create their own destinies.

Above all the amazing things that PLEN Women in STEM has offered me, what touched me the most was the constant message of “It’s okay to be you–an introvert–and be able to help people, patients, individuals who need your care.” This also comes with the idea that all of us have a voice, no matter how small or big we may be. I may not be the most gregarious person by nature. College parties make me nauseous and seeing distant relatives at family parties make me wish that I was born a turtle rather than human. However, I do know that I have a “loud brain.” PLEN allowed me to realize that I have knowledge, ideas, and passion that I could use to impact society.


Elisa Marie Oronico attended the 2016 Women in STEM Policy seminar as a senior at Mount Saint Mary’s University.

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