Without the existence of the BE program, I would never have been able to attend the CSE17 conference. I met so many great people and was exposed to research well outside my field. The content of the BE activities challenged me to think about my academic and career path in a new light. Was I spending time on pursuits that I was passionate about? Was I satisfied with my performance? What could I do differently to better define my goals? Pondering these questions brought me to the conclusion that I was not in the right place, academically. My participation in the BE program served as the catalyst I needed to make a change. This summer I am moving and starting a new program at a new university. I had always regretted not studying mathematics, and now I have an opportunity to do so. I have a new adviser and mentor there and am looking forward to the new challenge. There really is no telling where I’d be right now, had I not participated in the BE program. But, chances are, I would not have had the courage to make a change.
The Mentor Protege Program was also incredibly influential to me. Prior to being paired with a mentor at the BE program, I had never had anyone in my academic life that I felt was a mentor to me. I began to think I would never be successful because I did not have this support system. Teachers, professors, advisers come and go, but no one ever reached out to see how my career goals were changing or in what kind of research questions I was actually interested. Furthermore, knowing that I was paired up with someone who explicitly signed up to be a mentor makes it much easier to interact with him. You know that you aren’t bothering him, and that he expects you to email him with updates about what’s going on in your life. I continue to email my mentor on a regular basis. Considering that I am switching programs/universities and looking for a job, his input and perspective has been invaluable. I also attribute my success in being the recipient of a prestigious grant to his helping me with the content of my resume.
Based on this experience, I would absolutely participate in the BE program again! And I plan to! Since conferences of this size are often difficult to navigate, especially being new to the field and a student, it is extremely helpful to gather people together under the BE umbrella. Having this sub-group of researchers in one room makes it easier to approach them and to build professional relationships with them.