Klawe: Work hard when success is doubtful

A renowned computer scientist and scholar, Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa (DSc) at the Friday morning session of Western’s 311th Convocation.

Klawe spoke to graduates from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Faculty of Engineering, stressing the importance of supporting women to study and pursue careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields and ensuring equitable representation in academic and professional settings.

At Harvey Mudd, Klawe noted, roughly half of STEM faculty members are women and the number of faculty members who are persons of colour is continuously on the rise. This was not the case 50 years ago, when she applied to university to study engineering.

Klawe had to forge her own path to academic and professional success and after five decades, she is in a place where she hopes women and people of colour can not only have equitable access to opportunities in STEM, but also contribute to influencing a culture of progress and learning.

“We (at Harvey Mudd) are aiming for a learning environment where everyone feels engaged and supported,” she said.

The steps toward success in such an environment are not complicated, Klawe added.

“When one wants to make progress on an important problem, whether in research or changing the world, the most important elements are to first pick a good problem; it is a waste of your time if it is not a good problem. Persist and work hard,” she noted.

“Work hard when success is doubtful. Regularly evaluate your approach and be willing to re-evaluate your strategy. Know how to build teams and alliances and be willing to ask for help.”

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