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"Through the LeaderShape Institute, I realized (my personal goal for positive change) was to help increase the number of women in math and science."

Amanda Schram

Civil Engineering

Amanda Schram came to Florida State knowing she wanted to study engineering. She also had a strong desire to study abroad that only became more intense after a summer visit to Ireland.

As member of the WIMSE (Women in Math, Science and Engineering) Living Learning Community, Amanda "loved living in Cawthon Hall with other girls who were interested in the things I was.

"That's how I met Dr. Blessing," she said. Dr. Susan Blessing, director of the WIMSE program, has become Amanda's mentor. "She is all about research. … She pushed us to be the best we could be at the highest level. She encouraged me to take Calc 3 as a freshman."

By the time Amanda began her sophomore year, she had decided she would have to forego her dream of studying abroad. "I was sad to give up on studying abroad, but I couldn't see how I could do that and stay on track with engineering." And, it seemed opportunities that would support her studies were limited.

Then she received a surprising message from the Office of National Fellowships. "It was about scholarships available for students to study in Germany." Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (Germany Academic Exchange Service), or DAAD, offers scholarships to undergraduates from the United States and Canada to study in Germany.

"I decided to go for it," said Amanda. She attended an ONF workshop, and with guidance from its director, Dr. Craig Filar, and encouragement from her mentor, Dr. Blessing, Amanda applied for the scholarship.

Amanda was awarded a DAAD Research Internship in Science and Engineering scholarship. "I spent the summer in Bochum, Germany, researching the behavior of steel," she said.

"It was an incredible experience. … I lived in a dorm with other international students. … I worked in a lab from 8:30 to 3:30 with a Ph.D. student who spoke English," said Amanda. "We didn't have to be able to speak German, thank goodness."

DAAD values cultural exchange and encourages students to travel, meet the German people and experience what the country has to offer. Amanda and her new friends traveled every weekend. "I loved taking the train. We saw as much as possible. We visited Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne. … The last weekend we took the train to Switzerland and relaxed. I swam in Lake Geneva.

"I learned so much this summer. I was on my own. I had to figure things out for myself — and I did. … It gave me a lot of confidence," she said.

Dr. Filar, a believer in the inherent value of studying abroad, said, "Amanda experienced a transformative academic experience this summer. I hope her success inspires other Florida State students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to consider international research experiences."

Amanda, who will graduate in spring 2012, has a 3.9 grade point average and is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, Phi Eta Sigma and The National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

She joined the American Society of Civil Engineers last fall and in the spring competed in the Southeast Regional Competition.

As a freshman she participated in LeaderShape Institute, at which students are asked to define a personal goal for positive change in society. "I realized mine was to help increase the number of women in math and science," said Amanda. She joined the Society of Women Engineers with that goal in mind.

Through SWE she has organized afterschool programs for young girls. "We do things like try to make newspaper towers and straw bridges. … Sometimes the girls hold back at first, but then they really get into it," she said. "Seeing them get so animated gets me excited. … I want them to know engineering exists.

"I had such a great support from WIMSE. … I feel a responsibility toward other women in math and science."