Undergraduate student majoring in sociology with a minor in chemistry and on the pre-med track
Striving & Thriving at VCU talks to Sheila about what led her to major in sociology and what it's like to be the SACNAS at VCU Chapter Co-President.
What is your major and envisioned career path?
My major is sociology with a minor in chemistry. I'm on a pre-medicine track with the aspiration to become a cardiologist and focus on Latinx health disparities. My family has a long history of heart attacks. For example, my uncle had a heart attack at 35. So, for me it’s important to better understand why Latinx have higher cardiovascular disease rates than other racial/ethnic groups.
What does it mean to be a STEM student?
I switched my major a few times, but they've all been in STEM. I've done majors like biology, forensic science, HPEX, and now sociology. Being a STEM student entails taking a lot of hard classes, but they are not impossible to pass. You will, however, have to be in the library for a few hours straight but I feel it's doable if you surround yourself with supportive people and you use all your available resources.
What have you learned as the SACNAS at VCU Chapter Co-President?
Serving as the SACNAS at VCU Co-President is a lot more administrative than you'd think, but I do enjoy it. It's nice to be able to set an example and lead my fellow members of the E-Board as we all work together to achieve our goals. As Co-President, my main role is to make sure the E-Board members are supported and to lead efforts in making any changes when things aren't working well. Another aspect of this role that I really enjoy is meeting new members. They typically have lots of questions, and I'm always willing to help out. If I don't know the answer, I make sure to point them to someone that can help them. Overall, I do enjoy the leadership aspect of serving as Co-President as it has taught me how to delegate tasks and make sure everyone is working together given that keeping all on board is essential to the sustainability of the organization.
What was it like to attend the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
Overall it was a great experience. Prior to the start of the conference, I attended the C.O.L.O.R. Leadership Retreat, which is designed to support SACNAS chapter officers by strengthening their leadership talents and unity with the broader chapter network. It was great to meet other chapters and hear what is going well for them and what challenges they are facing so we can learn from each other. It was also amazing to see the involvement of doctoral students as they were so willing to mentor others. For example, I met a first-gen Honduran MD/PhD. He gave me the real advice and I really appreciated that. I also met a student that had done a research internship with Cornell and was now working with Harvard. She inspired me to keep moving along in my journey as she asked me, what's stopping you? I know if you can do it why can't I? The SACNAS Conference provided me the opportunity to network as over 6,000 people were in attendance.
What is your favorite study spot on campus?
Either the OMSA office or Cabell Library first floor by the librarians.
How would you describe living in Richmond?
I love being in the city but hate the parking situation. There is great food in Chesterfield.
Describe yourself in three words.
Independent, determined, and a baddie.
Who do you respect and admire?
My father because he has two jobs working 80 hours a week and still has a smile on his face no matter how many stressors.
What is most rewarding about being in STEM?
Being able to share the experience with your family. For example, I help my brother with his high school chemistry homework.
What is something you never thought you would see yourself doing?
College. In high school, I was not involved in any sports or clubs and was a bit more introverted.
What do you do the first 30 minutes of your day?
Favorite thing to do after an exam?
Go shopping or go get pupusas.
What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
What's your zodiac sign?
What's your favorite place in Richmond?
Cooking or baking?
Baking, I guess. I hate cooking.
A place you want to travel to is...
Go to Puerto Rico again.
Go to coffee shop order?
At Starbucks I get a grande, iced, brown sugar, shaken expresso with sweet cream.
Name a guilty pleasure you have.
What is something new happening in your life?
I'm doing an internship working with Latinx domestic and sexual violence survivors.
If you could major in a non-STEM major, what would it be and why?
Latin culture because I'd like to learn more about other countries. Another one would be law.
What is your favorite STEM related course?
How many languages do you speak?
Two, Spanish and English.
Favorite VCU event that you attended?
I loved going to watch Wakanda with my organization Culture.
What scares you?
Sunrise or sunset?