Promoting Women in Engineering


With money from a Duke Energy Foundation scholarship, students are better able to focus on their studies.

// BY LINDA SHRIEVES BEATY

It’s tough to juggle a part-time job with a college schedule. It’s even tougher when you’re studying engineering—a very demanding curriculum.

For Maryam Atallah, the schedule was grueling. While studying engineering at Valencia and taking classes four days a week, she was also working five days a week at the Apple Store at a nearby mall.

But thanks to a scholarship from the Duke Energy Foundation, Maryam was able to cut back her work hours and focus more on her studies. Scholarship recipients are awarded $4,275 a year up to a maximum of four consecutive years.

For Maryam, who’s 21 and now studying aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida,
the money not only gives her more time to study—it has helped her pay for a four-month study abroad program in Germany, where she is currently taking classes in automotive, mechanical and aerospace engineering.

“This scholarship is making a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity come true!” says Maryam.
Maryam Atallah in Germany

Maryam Atallah. Photo courtesy of Maryam Atallah

Like Maryam, Shakira Cummings works as many hours as she can at Universal Studios—where you can find her working behind the counter at the Three Broomsticks Pub—but it’s tough juggling an engineering curriculum with work. So she was relieved when she learned she’d won a scholarship from the Duke Energy Foundation.

“With engineering courses, it’s really hard to work and go to school. Some people do it, but I’m one of those people who gets easily overwhelmed,” says Shakira, a former biology major turned engineering major. “I have to work harder at everything because everything’s math-based. But with the scholarship, I was able to work less and spend more time studying.”

Shakira, who’s 22, started her college career as a biology major at Florida State University. But after a year at FSU, it was too expensive to stay in Tallahassee. So she moved home, got a job and started taking classes at Valencia College. Here, she dabbled in a lot of majors—psychology, sociology, journalism.

“I tried everything and I thought, ‘Maybe I should just go back to pre-med.’” Thanks to Valencia professors Jose Garcia and Boris Nguyen, she discovered she loved calculus—and soon changed her major to engineering.

 

Shakira Cummings

Now in her first semester at UCF, Shakira is taking three classes and two labs in computer engineering. “I thought it was a light load, but with the labs and the lab reports and the regular homework, it’s very time-consuming,” Shakira says.

That’s why the Duke Energy scholarships have been invaluable to recipients such as Maryam and Shakira. Designated specifically for women studying engineering, they are part of Duke’s efforts to diversify the engineering workforce. And at Valencia, where 16 percent of the current engineering majors are women, the scholarships have made a large impact. For the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years, a total of $150,000 was awarded to 40 deserving students.

For Duke Energy, the scholarships are designed to help develop a future workforce, not just for Duke but for businesses within the areas served by the company.

“Recognizing our workforce is more diverse today than ever before, we approach diversity and inclusion as a strategy for business success. We execute that strategy through our philanthropy by helping to provide access to post-secondary education for under-represented populations as well as first-generation college students,” says Debbie Clements, government and community relations manager for Duke Energy. “Given the fact that women are still largely under-represented in the engineering field and Valencia has proven success in serving a very diverse population, our grant to the college aligns perfectly with those things most important to Duke Energy.”

To explore more giving opportunities to benefit Valencia College students, visit the Valencia Foundation website.