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December 2021 grad: Ronni Brent built connections through scholar communities

Photo courtesy of Ronni Brent.

Ronni Brent, who grew up on Chicago’s West Side, will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in December 2021 – one semester early. In this Q&A, Brent talks about her passion for STEM, her involvement in campus scholar communities, plus shares her career plans and advice for other CALS students.

Q: Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois.

Q: How did you decide on your major?
I grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago with a lack of visibility for people of color in the STEM field or in college in general. I was privileged to have studied hard and been admitted to a top high school in Chicago where I found my passion for chemistry and the biological sciences. That’s where I discovered my passion for STEM.

Q: What were the most meaningful college experiences you had?
My most meaningful college experiences have been being part of so many different scholar communities including the UW Posse Program, the McNair Scholars Program and the Community and Environmental Scholars Program (CESP). Through these programs I’ve gained ample research experience, volunteer and leadership opportunities, and have met a lifelong, phenomenal network of people.

Q: When you think about your time here as student, what are you proud of?
I am proud of being a Black woman in STEM, excelling in a rigorous field and graduating early with a GPA above a 3.5. I want to serve as an example for younger women of color striving to matriculate in college and succeed with a promising career in STEM.

Q: What are your future academic / career plans?
Post-graduation I will be working as a manufacturing scientist at Eli Lilly, a top pharmaceutical company in the U.S. I will also be pursuing a master’s degree part-time in either chemistry or biochemistry at Purdue University, while working full-time at Eli Lilly.

Q: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with CALS students?
My advice would be to network as much as possible. Network with professors, students, professionals, community members, anyone! As important as your GPA is, it is not everything and people truly value your collegiate experiences!

Q: Are you graduating early?
I am graduating a semester early. I could still finish early after adding two certificates, environmental studies and global health.