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Spotlight

Taryn Harvey

’17
Mechanical Engineering
Story originally published on Aug 2021
I am Navajo. I was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona, a town bordering the Navajo Nation. I applied to Stanford because of my mom, who also went to school here.

She transferred from Northern Arizona University. She’s my best role model. I worked hard in school because I wanted to be like her. Ever since I was little I have said, ‘I’m going to Stanford. I’m going to be an engineer.’

When I first came to Stanford, I felt alone. I went from having many Native peers in high school, to being the only Native person in my dorm. It was a huge culture shock for me. I didn’t belong. The values of Native people and the Stanford culture are very different. It seemed there was a constant need to compete, rather than learn; to show off, rather than collaborate. That’s why I sought out the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) at one of the activity fairs and automatically knew that I wanted to join. 

The mission of AISES is to support, promote and help Native people not only succeed, but excel in STEM. However, it’s incredibly hard to sit in a classroom and know that you’re one of only two Native students in the class. Representation matters. Seeing people like you in your field helps motivate and instill perseverance. The Native upperclassmen became the representation I needed. When I was a freshman, one of the AISES seniors helped me make a four-year plan so that I could figure out how to manage my engineering course load, study abroad, and still graduate on time. Seemingly small things like this created big steps toward success for me. It motivated me to do the same as president of our AISES chapter. 

One thing I believe all Native people can relate to is that we need to use our education to help our people. This can come in many forms. As a senior, I’m now at a point where I would like to go home and be closer to my family and the land that I’m from. Right now I’m planning on applying to Arizona State University (ASU), which is only two hours away from Flagstaff, where I hope to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. I want to use my skills, grow as an engineer, and hopefully help my people in some way.

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