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Breaking Down Barriers

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on April 24, 2018 in News
Haley Matthews in the Engineering Design Lab on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus
Haley Matthews in the Engineering Design Lab on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus

By Emma Geldart  Photo Credit: Nick Pearce

When Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture engineering student Haley Matthews (Class of ’18) was a participant of Imhotep Legacy Academy, she was the only female on the Truro team. Now, seven years later, that same team is made up of mostly girls with Haley as their head coach.

“I hope I have encouraged young females to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related careers,” Haley explains of the students she has coached and mentored through the program presented by Dalhousie University.

The Imhotep Legacy Program (ILA) is an outreach program for children of African descent to help engage them in careers related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Hosted through Dalhousie University, the program provides cumulative entrance scholarships to Dalhousie for participants in the program with outstanding grades and community involvement. By focusing on several subject areas in science and adopting a mentoring scheme, ILA offers a unique approach to enhancing the quality of math and science education for young learners of African descent. Programming is offered at three levels of education- junior high, high school, and university.  

Haley, originally from Toronto but moving to Truro when she was 12 years old, has been involved in the ILA since she was in grade 7. She began as a participant in junior high through ILA’s After School Program (ASP) and First LEGO League (FLL), both of which introduce students to curriculum-related science and math activities intended to develop interest in and increase awareness of these subjects. ILA programs are delivered by mentors, post-secondary students who are enrolled in STEM related studies.

“I was involved in the program first as a participant, then volunteer and now a staff member,” Haley explains. “After being introduced to ILA through ASP and FLL, I became an assistant coach for robotics in 2014, and then employed by Dalhousie as a main coach in 2015 while in high school. Now, I am head coach. My job is to prepare students for the competition this coming September. I teach programing, building and more.”

Set to graduate this May, Haley has spent the last two years studying at Dal AC. She studies electrical and computer engineering with a specialization in biomedical engineering (BME), a type of engineering that applies engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes. BME is used to advance health care treatment, including diagnosis, monitoring and therapy.

While the ILA helped Haley realize her dreams of pursuing a career in STEM, she admits she didn’t always know she wanted to pursue engineering.  

“I wanted to study pre-med as a major and minor in neuroscience,” Haley explains. “I had a change in mind prior to university. I realized I didn’t really see myself as a physician. I want to have an impact on society globally and I think I can contribute through research within my discipline.”

After graduation from Dal AC, Haley plans to build on her diploma in engineering and pursue a Bachelor of Engineering degree in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) with a specialization in BME through Dalhousie University in Halifax. After that, she has her sights set on research and graduate studies.

“I hope my future research contributes to the greater good of knowledge in my profession,” Haley explains. “I would like to share my knowledge with a global network of academics in my profession.”

Reflecting on her time spent at Dal AC, Haley explains it was the perfect choice for her. Living in Truro, she was able to save money by continuing to live at home. In addition to the proximity to her house, the small class sizes at Dal AC was also a draw for Haley.

“It is very close to home and was convenient for my family financially for me to do my first two years here,” she says. “The professors are kind and always remember your name.”

While Haley has her sights set firmly on her degree in engineering, she admits the journey wasn’t always easy.  

“This field is very competitive,” Haley explains. “To anyone entering this program, be willing to put the work and time into becoming an engineer. Take it seriously and try to comprehend the courses you take which aren’t heavily related to your discipline. Above all, think of grades as nothing more than grades. University is not a competition between you and your peers. Always consult an advisor even when you are doing well.”

This mindset, her determination to succeed and an early introduction to STEM careers through the ILA program in junior high were what led Haley to where she is today- an intelligent woman of African descent breaking down barriers in science, technology, mathematics and engineering. 

Convocation on the Agricultural Campus will take place on Friday, May 11th, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. in the Langille Athletic Centre.