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Kaylee Bunner

’18

Computer Science

Mar 2017
I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, far away from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where my father was born. As part of the Indian Adoption Project in the 1960s and ’70s, he was adopted by a white family. Due to this disconnect, my Native heritage was not a part of my identity as a child, but I always felt drawn to and curious about it.

 As I began my college search, I learned that Stanford had an extremely vibrant Native community. When I arrived on campus, I was hopeful that I would be able to learn about this part of myself. Through friends I have met through student groups like AISES, I have made progress.

One of our goals in AISES is to substantially increase the number of indigenous students studying STEM. As a part of that, we focus on building social and academic communities of support on campus by offering tutoring, study nights and social activities. We’re also focused on getting more indigenous people into the STEM pipeline. To address this, we host an event called “Clue-In Day” annually. I helped lead the event the past two years. We invite Native high school students from the Bay Area (and last year even from Montana) to campus. We talk to them about higher education and STEM. We discuss the cost of higher ed, as well as financial aid and scholarships. Then we do some type of project, such as a solar car competition, to pique their interest. We even invite their parents, many of whom tell us, “Honestly, I never knew that going to university could be a possibility for my child.”

As a child, I wasn’t exposed much to the field of engineering. When I was in high school I went to a women’s career fair. I heard a woman petroleum engineer talk about her job. She said that engineering was about problem-solving, working with teams and addressing real-world problems. That really struck a chord with me. Now I’m finishing up my undergraduate degree in computer science. It’s tough. As you get further and further in the curriculum, you see fewer women and people of color. The drop-off is frustrating, and I can’t figure out why it’s happening. I’ve definitely come close to giving up a few times. But then I say to myself, “I’m going to change the stats. I want to finish what I started.

Amanda Law

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