Introducing our newest SciCheer, Cahlie! Cahlie is studying computer science while cheering for her local team, the Jacksonville Sharks. Keep reading to see how this dancer turned cheerleader found her love for science and technology.
What got you interested in STEM?
I attended a performing arts high school as a dance major planning to pursue a dance career professionally. While the school had a heavy and primary focus on the arts, they were also strict about grades and academics. They had several science-based clubs that I was apart of including the Science National Honors Society, Robotics Club, and Mu Alpha Theta, our schools competitive math team. I ended up really enjoying my STEM focused extra curricular programs and began to shift my focus from pursuing dance in college to pursuing an engineering degree. However, freshman year of college I very quickly realized dance was not something I was going to be able to live without and wound up auditioning for my local arena football team.
Due to COVID and its many setbacks, I originally planned to attended FSU in person freshman year and wound up an online student instead. It was this decision that made me want to continue as an online student as I learned to greatly appreciate the flexibility it gave me with dance. I now attend UF as an online computer science student. This how allowed me to not only pursue an engineering degree at an amazing university, but also pro vide me with the flexibility to dance, train, and audition as need be.
Fun fact, I wrote my entire college essay about how strange it is to be a “science cheerleader” and it has allowed me to attend three amazing universities. While cheer and STEM may not be the most obviously combination, I have found they go together great. The work ethic, dedication, and detail orientation are incredibly useful skills in both fields and I am so proud to see organizations like this paving the way for the those who want to do both.
What does it mean for you to be able to work in STEM?
With the advancements being made in AI and technology, it’s a really exciting time to be in this field. Originally the idea of cyber security and specifically forensic computing stood out to me. However, it is such a broad field I don’t have an exact idea of what I want to use my degree for just yet but I have enjoyed being the designated IT person in my household helping with technical difficulties and whatnot. In general, I hope to be a valuable member of the scientific community, representing women in the workforce and hopefully continuing to diversify a male-dominated field.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader help you as a computer scientist?
Two words: work ethic! I can definitely think of a couple other qualities but work ethic has to be number one on my list. In addition, I think the dedication, patience, detail orientation, and the drive it takes to be in the STEM field can be tremendous assents to those in cheer/dance/art as well. One of the things I love the most about dance is getting to work with so many different personalities and perspectives. It is so inspiring to see others work in their own ways and I have learned a tremendous amount from my teammates, peers, and coaches.
How do you handle facing the stereotypes around female engineers and cheerleaders?
I have always been a big believer in the saying “actions speak louder than words.” Leading by example is the best way to prove that and debunk such stereotypes. I have definitely experienced some expectations of negative stereotypes but there’s only one way to prove them wrong! I think the best way to do that is to act kindly and do the best at whatever task is at hand, whether it be dance or writing algorithms!
What advice would you give your 12-year old self?
Never make yourself smaller to make someone else more comfortable. Ever. Oh! Also to Dream Big!