If Stephanie Damas needs some inspiration, all she has to do is look at the engraving on her wood-grain smartphone case.
Below her name, it reads, “ELECTRICAL ENGINEER” and “THEY WOULD BE PROUD <ND X 2>.”
ND are the shared initials for her late older brother, Nostra Damas, who died in a car wreck when she was a high school senior in Florida, and her late father, Nocles Damas, who died 100 days before she graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering.
Stephanie is honoring their memory by pursuing master’s in computer science and Ph.D. in engineering and science education at Clemson University.
“I finally found what my father had been trying to guide me to– a place where I could trailblaze,” Stephanie said. “I don’t know any other Haitian American that is doing engineering education. I also don’t know any other person that is doing research on Black students thriving. I found a space that literally only I occupy, and that’s what my father has wanted from me my entire life.”
After the wreck, Stephanie wanted to work on car computer systems. Maybe if there were more safeguards in place, she thought, future tragedies could be prevented
While at FSU, she went through a dark time and found that electrical engineering wasn’t the best fit for her. Then she discovered the work of Lisa Benson, a Clemson professor of engineering and science education.
Stephanie remembers hearing Dr. Benson talk at a colloquium about her student motivation research and seeing herself in Dr. Benson’s stories.
Dr. Benson offered Stephanie a chance to study with her through a National Science Foundation program called Research Experiences for Undergraduates.
“I never looked back,” Stephanie said.
Later, Stephanie received a prestigious scholarship through the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She is now in her second year as a Ph.D. student and in her first year of pursuing a master’s degree
After receiving her degrees, she would like to become a director of diversity and inclusion at a university or engineering firm.
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