Sightings recently spoke to Elisa Aigamaua, who graduated earlier this year with a major in Biostatistics and minor in Scientific Computation. She told us about her experience at Simmons and her post-graduation plans!
Hillary Fundin and Elisa Aigamaua at graduation.
What was your education and career history before coming to Simmons?
I earned my first Bachelor's in Economics from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. I then worked as an admission counselor for MHC for a year after deferring acceptance into graduate school. I also worked as an instructor for 20-day wilderness trips (backpacking, canoeing, rock-climbing) for at-risk youth. I moved to Seattle in 2007 and briefly worked at REI and for a girl's rock-climbing program. In 2008, I came back to Boston and worked for EF as a Recruitment and Placement Manager working with international cultural exchange students. That September, I began working in the admissions office at Harvard University and stayed there for 5 years in various roles throughout Harvard. I wanted a more technical and analytical role, and had taken a Data Analysis course at Harvard Graduate School of Education. This made me realize I was ready to attend graduate school - but needed additional preparation. I ended up emailing with the Simmons Undergraduate Admission office and the chair of Biostatistics, Professor Robert Goldman. I was happy to learn that Simmons allowed students to earn a second bachelor's and also that professors at Simmons really supported students who were changing careers.
What was it like to be an adult student at Simmons?
I turned 31 in April. Being an adult student at Simmons is a really fantastic experience. I was worried about how I'd fit into the classroom experience but I had no trouble. Students are engaged and care about learning - so I felt happy to be among them. The professors appreciate Dix Scholars' life experiences and their intentional approach to learning. I never felt like I was 'in the way' or the annoying student who asked too many questions. I fit right in with my excitement for and desire to learn. I actually ended up meeting friends in my Mathematical Statistics course and formed not only a study group, but also a running group. I ran the Boston Marathon with Laura Meadows '15 and I ran the Boston Athletic Association 10k with Laura and Hillary Fundin '14.
What are the advantages of studying STEM at a women's college?
I cannot say enough positive things about the merits of an all-women's experience. The resources, opportunities, space, visibility, classroom experience are all geared for, of, and by women. You don't have to, metaphorically speaking, "cross the street" to be comfortable walking through classroom discussions or labs. Your peers are smart, focused and soon-to-be doctors, nurses, PAs, physicists, chemists, biologists. There is no invisible requirement to fit yourself to the social setting of the classroom of complicated gendered social dynamics. You are able to raise your hand to ask or answer a question with ease and confidence and if you don't have that ease and confidence your first year, going to a women's college will enable you to develop it - and develop it fast.
How did you complete your Independent Learning requirement?
I took two independent programming courses. One was learning an open-source statistical software used for research. I worked with my advisor who coached me along with statistical concepts while I learned how that translated to code.
How did it feel to attend graduation?
I was overwhelmed and grateful for the three full-time semesters filled with friendship, learning, and opportunity. The ceremony was beautifully organized and logistically on point. It was a nice reflection of the institution itself. All the details were cared for, the schedule was on time, the flower arrangements were beautiful, the venue was a refreshing location right on the Boston Harbor and the speeches were meaningful, articulate, moving, and funny. I was really grateful the President thanked all the families and friends of graduates and acknowledged the support networks of the graduates. Without our friends and families' sacrifices and support, the Simmons adventure would be grueling and lonely.
When I graduated, I felt so proud to be a Simmons alumna and so happy for my experience at the school and the doors that Simmons opened for me post-graduation.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I was admitted to a MS program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, as a student in the inaugural cohort of their cutting-edge program in Data Science (the study of programming and statistics). Currently, I am in the middle of a summer internship at Twitter's Boston office, where I work as an intern software engineer on the QA team.
What advice would you give to an adult student thinking about Simmons?
Simmons is filled to the gills with opportunities. You will be studying in a city, where it is possible to intern with a plethora of companies from local high-tech start-ups to major companies and world-renowned institutions. There are hospitals, government agencies, schools, and companies of all sorts in the city. Additionally, Simmons itself has an incredible and passionate tight-knit math department led by faculty that will draw you in and provide an incredible intellectual and social platform to help you launch your career and achieve your personal or academic goals.