Aisha Cora is a recipient of a Fellowship from the Marcy Migdal Fund for Educational Equality. The award supports exceptional students engaged in activities aimed at enhancing access to education for vulnerable students, either locally or throughout the world, and helping them succeed in their education. Click here to learn more about the Marcy Migdal Fund.
I am a graduating senior in Electrical & Computer Engineering. I have a passion for building community and uplifting diverse voices in spaces. With having the opportunity to consistently hear many diverse stories, I always aim to find novel solutions to problems that plague my communities. At many institutions, I see a need for brave spaces for BIPOC, first-generation, low-income, and overall underrepresented groups who have been systemically pushed out of higher education, and especially STEM education. During my freshman year, I joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), an organization dedicated to the professional development, academic excellence, and community of Black engineers, and A Vision for Electronic Literacy & Access (AVELA), an organization that focuses on student-led outreach, STEM education, and near-peer mentorship. I am now co-President and President of those organizations, respectively.
The Marcy Migdal Fellowship funds will support AVELA in empowering our membership of underrepresented minority (URM) students. As AVELA is focused on being student-led and having student leadership, all of our content is created by our student membership. It is important and we are deliberate to ensure our content reflects and engages the diverse populations we aim to support. AVELA’s mission centers around improving URM student retention and post-graduation employment rates while engaging in unique outreach initiatives that involve conducting multi-week classes, workshops, panels, keynotes, tutoring services, and various community engagement activities. Furthermore, AVELA actively collaborates with community partners to facilitate equitable, community-driven change.
Through AVELA, I have created unique class content, taught over hundreds of students from my community and background, and received near-peer mentorship for my college journey. I am currently co-first author on our paper, “AVELA- A Vision for Engineering Literacy & Access” in review for Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction. In the paper, we focus on how access to technology simply is not enough. We find that our “AVELA model”, including near-peer mentorship and having instructors be representative of the communities they teach, are what truly bridge the educational gap in BIPOC communities. Our strategies remove the barriers that stop students from engaging with the technologies they have physical access to and give them more confidence to seek opportunities for skill development and career enhancement. We use the power of representation and culturally responsive teaching to maximize benefit for URM students.
The Marcy Migdal Fellowship will help provide funding for AVELA student teachers, purchase physical hardware and resources, as well as online software.