Leading the Charge for Women in STEM
Through her recently published children’s book and a number of other initiatives, Sasha Ariel Alston is helping to change the face of STEM.
Sasha Ariel Alston ’19, is an accomplished STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) student on a mission. An information systems major, Alston is making quite the splash with the publication of her children’s book, Sasha Savvy Loves to Code. The book, which Alston wrote to encourage and empower girls—especially girls of color—to learn how to code, has already been featured in numerous publications, including the Huffington Post and The Renewal Project.
Sasha Savvy Loves to Code follows Sasha, a 10-year-old African American girl living in Washington, D.C., as she attends summer coding camp and solves various challenges through coding. The story is loosely based on Alston’s own experiences growing up in the nation’s capital.
“This book is based on a lot of things I’ve experienced, but through the eyes of a 10-year-old,” says Alston. “I hope the book will inspire girls to pursue opportunities in STEM because I see first-hand how underrepresented women and girls are in this area.”
Demand for Sasha’s story has been high. Having well exceeded her $5,000 Kickstarter goal (Alston raised $17,000), the book officially launched on June 2, 2017 and sold out on the very first day. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and more.
Alston’s success in the publishing world has led to a number of additional opportunities. She was recently featured in Disney’s Dream Big Princess photography campaign, and is working with Google and Snap Inc.’s Made with Code initiative, which aims to foster computer science and coding interest amongst girls through making Snapchat filters. Alston has also had the opportunity to inspire the next generation of coders through public speaking; she recently addressed elementary school students in Ohio, and has more speaking engagements planned in Los Angeles, the Silicon Valley area, and Chicago in the coming weeks and months.
While the general public is getting introduced to Sasha’s story for the first time, she’s busy figuring out the next chapter.
“Right now, I’m working on an outline for the next three books—I want it to be a series, with the ultimate hope for it to be a TV show—similar to Doc McStuffins, which shows young girls they can grow up to be doctors.”
As Alston’s work begins circulating around the world, she hopes to serve as a positive example to young women everywhere, particularly as STEM fields become more impactful both locally and globally.
“Combining STEM with social justice is what keeps me motivated,” says Alston. “I literally want to change the face of STEM.”
Thus far, Alston’s ambitions and Pace have been a natural fit. As a Lubin transfer student, she realized that the New York City Campus was the perfect place to merge her interests in business and technology, and put herself in a position to succeed.
“I really loved Pace because they had information systems in the business school as opposed to just in computer science,” says Alston. “I also appreciate Pace’s location in New York—a hub of business and technology innovations and its reputation in finding excellent internship opportunities for its students.”
Alston, who isn’t in the business of wasting time, has already taken advantage of the aforementioned internship opportunities. She’s had eight internships in all, including a social media intern role with ManyMentors, a nonprofit that supports K–12 students through mentorships and helps facilitate opportunities for students within STEM.
Through her experiences in and outside of the classroom, Alston has been able to hone her future outlook. In addition to expanding the reach and capacity of the book series, she ultimately hopes to develop an education technology startup that provides students with the skills needed to excel in school and life. As a self-proclaimed “STEM Queen,” her goal is to one day collaborate with the popular “InternQueen,” and cultivate opportunities for students—particularly those underrepresented in fields like STEM.
Alston’s passion for STEM, combined with her impressive extracurricular initiative, has helped set her apart from her peers. As she enters the second half of her undergraduate experience, she knows that her discipline, focus, and drive will help take her to the next level.
“If you are interested in STEM, you have to be very disciplined and determined. It requires a lot of focus, studying, and practice. Being clear on what your mission is and how you will use the skills is key,” says Alston.
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Daniella Pajonas ’19 is the co-founder and current co-president of the Queer Society, a queerleader for the LGBTQA and Social Justice Center, and an RA on the NYC Campus. With all that experience, she has plenty of advice for her fellow Setters!