WASHINGTON, PA (April 29, 2021)—Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) biology major Emree Downey ’22 has a message for future generations following in her footsteps:
“To all the little Black boys and girls: You belong. You will always belong,” she said.
The W&J junior earned the Rooted In Science Scholarship from UNCF (United Negro College Fund) to defray costs toward her college tuition. Emree was one of just 11 recipients of the first awarded Rooted in Science Scholarship. The scholarships were awarded to Black women pursuing a degree in STEM fields at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and UNCF-member schools.
The scholarship is a reminder to Emree that she is a pioneer in her field of biology, which is largely dominated by white males.
Emree said being in a STEM field as a Black female is hard because there is a tendency for people to underestimate Black females in these fields, or even talk down to them. Emree is determined not to be dissuaded by people who would underestimate her.
“I don’t talk much about what I want to do after college because I don’t have the time or energy to listen to people say ‘Well, maybe you should consider something else’ or ‘Isn’t that super hard to do?’” she shared. “Yes, it is hard, but I’m going to do it. Nothing worth having comes easily.”
Emree has shown her strength and abilities, supported by members of the W&J community. It was Associate Biology Professor Jason Kilgore, Ph.D., who first encouraged Emree to apply for the UNCF scholarship.
“It feels great to have this type of support system behind me. I feel seen and heard. I’m studying nine to twelve hours every day for three to four science classes, and it feels good that someone sees that and appreciates it. My academics come before anything and it’s nice to finally be rewarded for it,” she said.
Emree’s application focused on the disparities that individuals from diverse backgrounds often face when they enter STEM fields, and she used the opportunity to showcase herself as the leader and hard worker that she is.
“I shared with them the fact that I want to represent all children of color who might feel intimidated or scared to enter a field such as this, where there aren’t many people that look like us,” she said. “However, that can be a good thing. You can be that person who breaks down barriers and says, ‘I can and I will.’ You may have to work twice as hard as your colleagues but at least you’re there and getting the job done. Representation matters.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY