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Saint Mary’s first-year awarded national scholarship

| Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Law Enforcement Education Program awards $2,000 scholarships to exceptional students every year in hopes of encouraging students to pursue law enforcement and public safety-related careers. There were only eight students who received this scholarship this year and Sydney Bleich, a first-year at Saint Mary’s College, was among the eight.  

Bleich is in the dual degree in engineering program, pursuing a degree in computer engineering from the University of Notre Dame and applied mathematics from Saint Mary’s. 

Bleich said she knew what she was going to major in computer engineering and applied mathematics the moment she talked to admissions counselors.

“I just went to the admissions office and I talked to them and said I want to be in the dual degree engineering program,” Bleich said. “They looked at what I had [done in] high school, and they looked at my experiences because I was the lead programmer of my robotics team in high school, I started a robotics team in middle school, I did a presentation at a Michigan security conference and talked to Dr. Jared Demott, who is a world-renowned doctor of programming and hacking. That was pretty cool.” 

Bleich hopes to become more proficient in programming through the experience gained from both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, she said.

“I think the scholarship will help me achieve my goals for the future and hopefully I’ll be able to learn more programming languages than I already know,” Bleich said. “So here I’ll be able to expand my knowledge on Python, which is what we study. And at ND, I’ll be able to expand my knowledge of C++ since I’m on the robotic football team and I want to join the Bellebots here. It would be cool to work on all these different programs. I am really excited about the program. I think my hard work will pay off.”

Bleich said she does not know she wants to do with her degree, but she will keep her options open unlike she used to.

“I originally wanted to work in the FBI, but I don’t really know quite yet what I want to do,” she said. “I have six internships lined up currently. Some of them are with places that program computers and certain softwares. Some of them are for hacking industries. I want to go into forensics basically. That’s my end goal: going into the forensics of hacking and programming and working on software.”

Bleich attended a cybersecurity conference in Michigan, and said she remembers the feeling of being not only one of the youngest in the room, but also one of the only females. 

“When I went to the Michigan cybersecurity conference, it was kind of cool, there were about seven females but there had to about eight hundred people,” Bleich said. “I mean these are all businessmen and they were all from business companies and I was the only high schooler there and I was one of the very few females. So it was kind of intimidating. That was one of the coolest experiences ever.”

Bleich said she met one of the prominent figures in her field.

“I got to meet all of these companies and I met with one of the presenters named Dr. Jared Demott,” Bleich said. “He is a founder of one of the main security companies now. He was a former NASA security analyst. He has a CTO in binary defense. I actually got to talk to him, which was really cool because there were about 300 security companies and management companies waiting in line just to talk to this guy. It was a really cool experience.”

Bleich said she hopes that other girls at Saint Mary’s can experience the setting of a STEM-related conference just as she did.

“I think it would be really cool to have Saint Mary’s girls go to conferences because that’s a once in a lifetime chance,” she said. “We’re trying to get girls in the STEM field. It’s just so many guys in the STEM field and you can even tell from the older generations and the new generations coming up.”

Bleich said she hopes scholarships like the one she received will help women become more involved in STEM majors and careers. She said she hopes that men will understand that being a girl does not make girls less smart.

“Sometimes guys will give you a hard time or they will be very biased especially because you’re a girl in the field,” Bleich said. “It’s a ‘guy’s field.’ Some of them are really sexist, but you have to kind of get over it and be like, ‘Hey, just because you’re a guy and I’m a girl doesn’t mean that you’re smarter than me.’” 

Receiving the scholarship is a testament to how much girls and women can do, she said. 

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