Dakota State University
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Dakota State University: Empowering women in STEM

If you ask Seema Bhandari about the person she admires most in the STEM sphere, her answer would be Steve Jobs, whom she notes “has made a praiseworthy contribution to the world of technology.” The Nepalese native wants to make the world a better place and improve the lives of people through the knowledge and skills she has gained through STEM.

“I have been a huge fan of data science since 2014. I feel that we have more data not being used because of the ongoing pandemic,” she says. “I think this pandemic will bring several opportunities not only to those who are experts in this field but also to recent graduates like me.”

Buoyed by a lifelong affinity for math and a motivation to work with computers, Bhandari knows that as an MS in Analytics student at Dakota State University (DSU), she’s well positioned to achieve her goals.

A place for women to realize their STEM dreams

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Master of Science in Analytics student Seema Bhandari. Source: Dakota State University

STEM is a field traditionally dominated by men, but the tide is shifting. According to data from the US Census Bureau, more women are being represented in and drawn to the field. In 1970, the US saw a mere eight percent of female STEM workers —  this number rose to 27% in 2019.

DSU has a history of advocating women in computer, technology, math, and cyber fields. They provide a supportive environment for women to learn and stretch themselves. Female faculty empower other women to join the field, while students are also guided, motivated and inspired by academics to bolster their understanding of the field.

Sujita Chaudhary, who worked as a software quality assurance engineer in Nepal, says she chose to pursue her MS in Computer Science at DSU, thanks to its stellar reputation. “As I was working in the cyber security domain, I thought this school would be a good fit to boost my knowledge in that domain. At DSU, I have the opportunity to do my research on penetration testing,” Chaudhary shares.

Since graduating last August, she has begun working as a software quality assurance engineer for a telehealth company that provides virtual care to COVID-19 patients, in addition to the general public by creating healthcare apps.

“In a way, I’m already using my knowledge to fight this pandemic, and I hope, in the coming days, I’ll be able to use my knowledge and skills to make this post-pandemic world a better and safe place,” says Chaudhary.

An unparalleled learning experience

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Dakota State University is driven by a singular vision of excellence. Source: Dakota State University

A singular vision of excellence drives DSU. Here, students can expect a world-class education, groundbreaking research, and community-engaged outreach. They are prepared to meet the most complex challenges facing society today. Students engage with professors and fellow students to develop their strengths with beyond-the-classroom experiences.

DSU’s commitment to its students is proven by its ranking as the best online college in South Dakota (2019). They offer a myriad of programmes at DSU Online, including Accounting, Business Management, Computer Science, and Cyber Operations to Elementary Education, Health Informatics, Information Systems, Marketing, and Network and Security Administration, among others.

Their professors also play an essential role in supporting graduate students. “I had the opportunity to partake in research with Dr. David Zeng at DSU. I found DSU’s professors to be motivating and inspiring,” Bhandari shares.

She also had the opportunity to study project management (PM). “I have always been a team leader and am always excited to improve my managerial skills. I liked it when Dr. Cherie Noteboom gave us case studies of a new company. She also shared her experiences and taught PM policy and plans to give us insights into how the real-world revolves around managerial skills,” she explains.

The icing on the cake was the coveted opportunity to work at the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) to put theory into practice and work with COVID-19 datasets last summer. Bhandari credits her professor, Dr. Jun Liu, for giving her real-life projects and assignments which helped her during her internship.

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Cybersecurity major student, Sujita Chaudhary. Source: Dakota State University

Cybersecurity major student, Sujita Chaudhary. Source: Dakota State University

As job opportunities in STEM fields continue to grow, it’s essential, more than ever, that women feel supported in their education and confident in pursuing a STEM career. Universities are in a unique position to increase the number of women in these fields and can be a great resource for companies looking to recruit STEM talent.

“While we are taught to believe that the technical field is not for girls and that we’re not naturally suited for this, I hope I challenged those mindsets, to a certain extent. And if I can do it, any girl can do it,” says Chaudhary.

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