When little kids dream about their future, they dream big: astronaut, musician, doctor, maybe even president.
Their ambitions are inspiring, yet as they grow, they may be guided down a more practical job path. However, Marian is encouraging students to embrace passion and purpose in preparation for a fulfilling future. In fact, Marian has been encouraging young women to become “confident, independent thinking leaders” for years, especially in male-dominated fields like STEM and politics.
Take 2001 alumna Sarah Shay Gudeman, for example.
After leaving Marian, Gudeman attended Iowa State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Gudeman now works at Morrissey Engineering Inc. as a mechanical engineer and sustainability manager.
“When I started in the industry, there were far too few females in engineering. That’s changing now, but there’s still a huge demand for engineering of all types in general,” Gudeman said.
Gudeman encourages girls interested in STEM to take additional math and science classes and to “investigate different types of engineering and start making connections or following people at companies that would be of interest.”
Gudeman may be seeing a few Marian girls in engineering soon, as Marian has doubled down in its goal to balance the gender gap in STEM fields.
“Despite being in the minority, women have a very important role in STEM and I am excited to be a part of it,” senior Grace Ellis said. She plans to study civil engineering in college.
Morgan Watters graduated from Marian in 2008 and now works as a political operative at Colorado Rising in Denver.
Watters’ typical day involves working with many candidates, organizations and other consultants to organize political campaigns. “I love that I get to do work that truly, tangibly matters. I get to be a part of making our communities more equitable and bring real representation to all people,” Watters said.
Watters isn’t alone in her passion for politics.
Marian senior Callie Cavanaugh plans to study political science in college and dreams of becoming a U.S. senator.
“I’ve volunteered on political campaigns before,” Cavanaugh said. “I understand that the political process is a difficult one, so I plan to spend time working and interning for politicians I align with, running for smaller offices, and working for organizations and nonprofits that promote the issues most important to me.”
Some girls are still unsure of what they want to do with their lives, but they’re not alone. After leaving Marian in 2014, Lauren Koperski Phipps didn’t find her dream career until she graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a degree in computer science, which she uses in her work as an application developer.
“One thing that was challenging was convincing others that I wanted to and could be a programmer. Some people encouraged me to avoid programming because it’s notoriously a male-dominated field and that I could be better suited for other positions,” Phipps said. “To overcome this, I worked doubly hard and found incredible supporters at school: the teachers who believed in me.”
Since the time that Phipps graduated, Marian has added STEM-focused classes, such as computer science and programming.
Students like junior Jada Williams are benefiting from such classes, which feed her passion for computer science and software development.
“I’m interested in computer science because I think that the field is so vast... It’s constantly changing with new information and designs, and I think that’s amazing,” she said.
Marian students are optimistic about the future. “I feel like Marian is encouraging us to use our voices to make change in society,” said senior Emma Gunn, who has plans to study law and eventually become a judge.
Alumnae share this advice with current students: “It’s OK to not know what’s coming. You’ll know what you want when you see it, and when you do, go for it without hesitation,” Phipps said. “Sometimes the moments of imperfection are the bravest of all.”