Always Stick to the Plan
Whether she’s spending time in the lab, serving as a mentor for women in STEM, or participating in campus clubs and activities, chemistry major Tiffany Roberts never seems to slow down and always sticks to her plan. Recently accepted into the 2021-2022 class of the NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP), her already packed schedule just got a little busier as she finds time to learn about student affairs through an on-campus mentorship, regional and national programming, and a potential paid internship. She recently spoke with The Box about her challenges, motivations, and successes as a student at New York Institute of Technology.
Why did you choose New York Tech?
I am from Philadelphia, so when I was a senior in high school, my top options were schools in Pennsylvania. I never imagined going to school in New York City, but when I came to visit on Admitted Students Day, I knew this was the school for me. I always describe the moment as me having a gut feeling, a voice in my head telling me that this is the school for me, and four years later, I am happy to say the voice was right. New York Tech has the ideal location, in the middle of the city. Plus, the atmosphere at the school, it’s hard to describe, feels like a home away from home.
You became very involved in campus life. What are some of the activities you are involved with?
I am the academic senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, the vice president of the Black Student Union, a NASPA fellow, the membership outreach coordinator for the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success, a peer health educator, a part of the Society for Women Engineers and NSBE. Outside of school, I am interning at the Philadelphia Navy Base again and am very involved in my church’s youth department.
Wow! You’re very busy. Can you talk about some of your other accomplishments outside of school?
I am a part of a mentor program stemming from Columbia University in partnership with high school juniors and seniors attending the high school I graduated from, George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science. My goal is to make the world of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] more attainable for women, specifically women of color. When I was in high school, my teachers always told me I needed to be the exception because there are not enough Black women in STEM careers. Using my past engineering internship at the Philadelphia Navy Base [as an example], I try to take my experiences and show students younger than me that it is okay to be different, to be the first to do something because you are setting the example for those who come after you. Out of the 30 students who participated in the Navy’s internship, I was one of two Black female students accepted into the program.
What have you found to be the most challenging in your academic journey? How did you overcome it?
I graduated in the top 15 of my class in high school, so I never expected when I got to college that I would have as much trouble as I did academically. It wasn’t until I was studying my freshman year that I realized I’ve never really studied before, or at least had an efficient way of studying. One of the most challenging things I have faced was finding out who I was as a student, what worked for me, and what didn’t. As a freshman, I found myself overwhelmed because as hard as I tried to study, I still wouldn’t do as well as I expected on my chemistry exams. As a chemistry major, I began to second-guess myself, thinking I wasn’t good enough to become a chemist because I didn’t know how to properly retain the information. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in Organic Chemistry that I finally figured it out. The summer before, I told myself I wouldn’t be scared to ask questions or go to tutoring because there is no shame in asking for help.
What will you be doing as a NASPA fellow and what inspired you to apply and participate in the NUEP?
I will be experiencing the world of higher education. Before last semester, I had no idea what NUFP was, but my National Student Leadership Society (NSLS) and Black Student Union (BSU) advisor was always spreading my name around because he saw my potential. Whenever he asked me to take charge of an NSLS event or moderate an event for the Office of Student Engagement or even step up to be the BSU’s vice president, I always said yes, not knowing he was preparing me for bigger and better opportunities. So, when he introduced me to the program and Associate Dean Patricia [Napolitano], I was ecstatic. Of course, I said I was interested.
How do you find the time to be so engaged and be a chemistry major?
It seems like a lot, and it is, but I always try to find a way to get things done. Sometimes things get overwhelming, but I remember to breathe, take a time out, and figure out a way. I am a very goal-orientated person, so I have to be proficient in time management. Rule No. 1: school comes first. Taking six classes at once is a lot, but because I figured out how to efficiently study and complete my school work with as much accuracy as possible, everything else I am involved in falls in line.
What are your goals and objectives as president of the BSU on campus?
The BSU has grown tremendously over the past year, and I want to continue to spread awareness that there are cultural groups on campus that people can find community in. Some of our goals this semester include more in-person events, roundtable discussions of the stereotypes we face in our community, producing a documentary detailing our experiences as Black students attending New York Tech, and fun events like a Monster Mash for Halloween. The BSU aims to reach those students who want to be a part of a group of people they can relate to and connect with. We are building a family at New York Tech, and we hope it grows and flourishes even after we graduate.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
Take your time! College is the place to rediscover yourself as an adult. This is the time to make mistakes and learn from them, so you know what to do next time. Do something you’ve never done before because you’ll never be as young as you are now. If you are like me, where you didn’t have to really study in high school, but in college, you lose yourself, take a step back and ask for help. Nine times out of 10, you are not the only person struggling and find comfort in that. If this is what you are meant to do, it should be challenging. It is always fun when you get to learn new things because if you are only doing what comes easy, you’ll be robbing yourself of all of the things that you can discover.