Perspectives from Women in STEM at WWU
By Claira Eastwood
The STEM programs at Walla Walla University have gained prominence over the years among men and women alike. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, which are fields frequently dominated by men. At WWU, however, many women have chosen a STEM major.
Kelsey Bitton, senior biochemistry and French double major, took a class in high school about biomedical science. It was in this class that she learned how proteins are made in the body and all the things that can go wrong and how problems can be fixed. This interest was one of the things that led her to majoring in biochemistry.
Julia Rivera, sophomore chemistry and pre-med major, always enjoyed chemistry in high school. She liked reading and writing, but it was more of a hobby. Science, math, being in nature, and figuring out how things work was fascinating for her. Rivera knew WWU had a good chemistry department and when she came to visit and liked the faculty that she met, she made her decision.
Emma Meadowcroft, junior psychology major, has always liked helping people. Being of the belief that mental health is a pressing issue in today’s society and needs to be acknowledged, she decided to be a psychology major.
While all three women are studying for a degree in a STEM field, they are each also studying something non-STEM related. As mentioned previously, Bitton is also a French major. “It can be weird having equal passions for art and STEM. We’re often taught that they’re opposites, but I’ve found that they’re complimentary. Language is a puzzle you figure out,” Bitton says. 
Rivera is also studying a language and has chosen to add a minor in Spanish: “I like having that wide range of knowledge. I like that I can take classes that keep me a well-rounded individual. When I become a professional, I’ll be able to relate to individuals and be able to see where they’re coming from.” 
While she has a minor in drama, Meadowcroft doesn’t plan on using it in her future career: “The message is very similar, that doesn’t mean they influence each other. Both of them urge you to take a deeper look at a person, but at different standpoints. They teach me similar things but they don’t really influence each other… [drama] is more of a passion than a career goal.” 
Moving forward, each of them have plans for what they will do with their education. Bitton wants to go to graduate school to get a doctorate degree in genetics. Rivera knows she wants to be a doctor, but doesn’t know what she wants to specialize in quite yet. After college, Meadowcroft plans on getting her master’s degree to be a child life specialist.
Even though each of these women have chosen to study something they are passionate about, that doesn’t mean it has always been easy or without hurdles to cross. “When I go into different class levels, I wonder if this is where I stop being good at this,” Bitton said, “and when I was in middle school and said I wanted to be a doctor someday, [people I told would] always be super impressed. Like it was some astronomical goal. I noticed that whenever my male counterparts said they wanted to be a doctor, it was like it was expected.”
Meadowcroft, on the other hand, has a different kind of difficulty to figure out: “It’s been ingrained in me to believe that psychology isn’t as much of a STEM field as something else. Like it’s not as scientific because [you can’t] find answers to anything.”
When speaking on some of the harder aspects she’s encountered, Rivera had advice to share: “If you stick with it, you’ll be proud of yourself. Sometimes it’s discouraging when you’re one of five students and the only girl, but you’ll make it and you’ll be proud of yourself.”
1. Interview with Bitton, K, 5/4/2021.
2. Interview with Rivera, J, 5/5/2021.
3. Interview with Meadowcroft, E, 5/6/2021.