Introduce yourself! What’s your name, major, year and where are you from?
Hi I’m Melita Wiles. I am a senior math and physics major from Wooster, Ohio.
What are your hobbies?
I like to bake! I have a baking business that I started in 2016 called “Baked Goodness” (not licensed). I make baked goods for weddings, graduations and more. It’s my artistic outlet. I also listen to music and I play piano. I like classical music. I also like to read. No, not like “Twilight.” I like to read nonfiction books by economists. I’d recommend “Ubiquity” by Mark Buchanan and I like hiking with my dog and my dad, Dr. Wiles.
Tell me about your IS. Why did you decide to do two instead of one?
I’ll tell you about my math one. I rated colleges on the topic of social mobility and racial equity. I chose that topic because I’m more interested in data science than pure math. I wanted to use my technical and quantitative math to help people. Education can fix a lot of things.
Don’t get me started on education equity!
I decided to do two IS-es because the intersection of my two majors is not something I’m very interested in. I’m a math major, not a data science major, but I wanted to do something with data.
What activities are you involved in on campus?
Glad you asked! Aside from writing for the newspaper, I’m a tour guide, the VP of astronomy club, a STEM Zone intern, I was on the cross country team and I worked in a research lab over the summer.
What is your biggest dream for after college?
My plan is to save the world but there are a few steps I have to take before that. I realized that I’m really interested in education equity. My goal is to join Raj Chetty in his mission of reviving the American dream. I never really believed in the American dream. I guess I sound really patriotic but that’s not what I mean. I want to do education equity research and make education more accessible through policy and through data. The work Chetty does looks at lower income communities and uses data science for good. It’s a way to take our technical background and use it to do good. I’ve been so privileged and I’ve lived a beautiful life. I had a fulfilling educational childhood because I was raised by lifelong learners. When you’re young, you’re shamed for enjoying learning but it’s because they don’t know the joy of it.
I have seen so many people who haven’t had the privilege I have had. These are attainable privileges. People deserve the same kind of opportunities or the choice to do the things I have done.
What is your advice to women looking to pursue STEM?
Seek out women mentors and people in positions of power above you. Something that has really helped me here is becoming close with women peers in other disciplines. It’s good to hear from different perspectives from different disciplines. Another big thing — this part is hard. Don’t be afraid of the guys. It took me until junior year to have this realization. Everybody has preconceptions about one another that really aren’t substantiated. I would say fake it until you make it. Flaunt faux confidence! It’ll get you places.