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Melody Geiger, 18 – FUNDED

Melody Geiger is a first-generation freshman at the University of Texas at Austin where she is double-majoring in arts and entertainment technologies and Spanish with a certificate in the elements of computing. So, she’s not busy at all! (Haha!)

The New Face of Tech winner references these words that keep her inspired: “Life is too short to succumb to adversity, and life is too short to refuse happiness. Don’t make excuses, and if you have a dream, chase it.”

As for her professional dreams, she wants to create games that make the world a better place through narratives about mental health, climate change, social justice, diversity, and cultural differences. She believes that education is critically important to society, so to be a part of the education process through this medium is a passion for her.

What does being the New Face of Tech mean to you?

Being selected as a New Face of Tech is incredibly humbling and motivating! I feel personally responsible for leading other women and girls into a more diverse future because I didn’t have a female tech person to look up to when I was younger. Being a New Face of Tech means maintaining continuous effort to carve out a space for women in STEAM in the hopes that future generations of girls will be inspired to follow their career dreams.

Women are underrepresented in STEAM. How can we change this?

I think diversity in education is the root of it all. I speak from experience when I say this. If we can hold more STEAM events for young girls, they will at least be introduced to the assortment of opportunities that STEAM provides. I’ve participated in the world’s largest Girl Powered event in my hometown of El Paso, Texas, for two years now and it has been an incredible experience. My high school hosted 700 girls from the ages of 8 to 18 to come learn about various STEAM topics ranging from robotics, binary, AI, and my department: game design.

At the event, high-school students created a booth based on whatever STEAM topic appealed to them and then presented it to the younger girls. As vice president of the game design club, my booth showcased our club’s games to the girls. We walked them through our process of designing and coding a game and then, at the end, we let them play it. As a volunteer, Girl Powered was not only inspiring but fun, and I can only hope that the young girls felt the same. Perhaps our impact was small, but events like that held all over the country could make a huge impact on the participants and volunteers alike!

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

In high school, I took AP Computer Science A and was one of three girls in the class of about 20 total students. Computer science does not come naturally to me whatsoever, so when I struggled, I’d have to go to my male friends for help. Even though they were my friends, it was still intimidating and almost disheartening to be surrounded by these guys who were incredibly smart and who picked up coding instantly.

In addition to that, I participated in several coding competitions with my friends because I wanted to push myself. Unfortunately, I was always the weak link; the one who didn’t know as much. I was at a different skill level than my teammates, but it was still disheartening to know that I was the one dragging the team down.

Despite all of these experiences, I didn’t give up and went on to challenge the AP computer science test the following academic year and passed with a score of 4 — a huge improvement over the 2 I got before. To this day, I refuse to let these kinds of struggles dissuade me from my dreams and haven’t, nor will I ever, let up on my journey towards excellence.

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals?

I’m blessed to say my parents instilled in me a strong sense of purpose. Whether in word or in deed, they were the model people for success, and I strive to live up to that. For me, there really is no other option but to be focused on my goals. I know where I want to be, and I’m more than willing to put in the work to get there. I love my family and know when to relax, but when it’s time for business, I will be the best that I can be at that time.

How will funding from the 1,000 Dreams Fund and HARMAN help you reach your goals?

Recently, I’ve started working to save money and reduce the financial burden that higher education puts on my family — especially with the circumstances the pandemic has created. With this scholarship, I might be able to reduce the hours I work to compensate for the heavier course load I plan to take next semester. I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to do so because my education will quite literally determine my future, so I wholeheartedly thank everyone who made this opportunity possible!