(September 29, 2021) – Emma Sapen comes by her love for math honestly. Her mother is a math teacher and her dad has a background in accounting.
However, Sapen didn’t develop a passion for the subject until her sophomore year at Jackson Prep.
“I was taking a pre-cal class, and it was my first honors math class where it was pretty difficult stuff,” she said. “It was just making sense to me. It was something hard but I could figure it out and get to an answer, so, it was just really cool to be in that mindset.
“I didn’t really love school in general as a kid. I did show choir and dance team in high school so I just loved to dance since I was little. So, I was more like, I just want to be doing that than be in school. But I think as I got older, I started to enjoy it more.”
She also began to figure out that using math in some form could be her path through college.
“My math classes have always been my favorite. At my high school, we had some engineering classes, but I didn’t take any. I talked to a lot of the teachers who taught it and just kinda looked more into it and learned about it and thought it was really interesting.”
That interest became her focus, and her college decision was narrowed down to Auburn or Mississippi State.
“I just went and visited Mississippi State more and just really liked the homey atmosphere. I talked to Bagley College, the engineering department, and everyone I met there just seemed so great. So, it just made sense.”
Sapen is at the beginning of her junior year at MSU and is taking 19 hours this semester, which is more than a full workload. As she progresses through college, she said she is also noticing the disparity of women to men in her engineering classes.
“There are definitely less women. I was just talking to somebody the other day about this. I was sitting in one of my classes, looking around. It’s a class of about 70 to 80, and I was like one of three girls.”
Her observation also follows nationwide trends for women and minorities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. According to the National Science Foundation, 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce is comprised of women.
“I will say it’s a lot of having to prove myself with either the men in the field just thinking ‘why are you in this field?’ or other women being like, ‘why are you doing that when you could do something easier?’”, Sapen said. “You can do it. Just showing other women that it is possible to do this and just work hard.
“I love the challenge. It definitely gets hard. It’s already been a very hectic semester. I also get a lot of support from my friends just saying you can do this and you’re so dedicated to school.”
She is also reaching the point of having to choose an internship for next summer. Sapen said she has interests in civil engineering or architecture.
“I just started contacting companies. There is one in Charleston (South Carolina), and this is a construction company. It’s not necessarily civil engineering, but I think I’m gonna go visit them, see what they kind of work with and see if it will be a good experience for me,” she said. “I’m also looking in Nashville at a civil engineering firm and just talking to them. I visited Nashville with my dad a few summers back and kinda walked around one of their civil engineer jobsites, so I thought that was interesting.”
Sapen also said her scholarship from the Mississippi Manufacturers Association is a big reason why these kinds of opportunities are possible.
“This scholarship has definitely been a big help for my family. I have two older siblings; one is in nursing school and one is just out of grad school,” she said. “It’s definitely a financial hardship for my parents. Scholarships also allow me to attend a larger public university where I can be more involved in things and have more learning experiences.”her scholarship from the Mississippi Manufacturers Association is a big reason why these kinds of opportunities are possible.