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Structural Engineering Education Fund for Womxn of Color

Introduction



My name is Brijhette, pronounced like a bridge and a jet. Yes, very fitting for an aspiring engineer.

In many ways, I was supposed to be a statistic. However, through hard work, luck, and countless opportunities, I’ve become practiced at achieving my dreams and bringing others along with me. I first felt the pull to study structural & earthquake engineering in 2010, right after Haiti's earthquake and at the start of architecture school. This dream has continued to flourish, and is still alive, 13 years later. After almost eight years working in Corporate America by day and taking math and engineering courses by night, I am excited to devote my full attention to studying engineering and, while doing so, advancing other scholars in this field.



The Ask


“Disaster shocks us out of slumber, but only skillful efforts keeps us awake.” - Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster


I seek to raise $150,000 by July 2024. In addition to funding my education, these contributions will directly assist other womxn of color who are also pursuing degrees in structural engineering, emergency management, and related fields.

After years of grind — overcoming six-figure student loan debt, juggling multiple jobs to support myself and family members, but still excelling academically — I am at a turning point. It is time to make the leap, and focus full-time on structural & earthquake engineering.


Why did I need to spend so many years grinding, you might ask?


Okay, let's get personal.


I was raised by an elderly great aunt in the projects on the North Side of St. Louis. At age 11, I got the opportunity to go to a program for gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds. I thrived in school and was excited to have a path to attend an excellent high school and university. The tuition for that high school, at $15K, was more than my family made in a year, so getting into that program was THE ticket to a great education.


I am the first person in my family to go to college and graduate school, and one of the few to graduate from high school. Breaking the cycle of poverty is very difficult, and being the first means that there's not yet help, experience, or resources to buoy the lonely journey. Most of my undergraduate tuition was paid for by applying for hundreds of scholarships each semester (and getting quite a few, as you'll see below) while taking 21 credit hours and working odd jobs. Why so many credit hours at once? So that I could graduate earlier and have less tuition to pay. (The hard work paid off, and I graduated in three years.)
For graduate school, I also got scholarships and worked as many as five jobs each semester to offset the costs. It was too expensive to do completely on my own, so I paid tuition with student loans and used money from my jobs for rent, architecture supplies, a bus pass, and a bike. Not long after graduation, I had a 9 month long job search, necessitating more debt. Since settling into stable employment in 2016, my chief goal has been paying down debt, developing a network, and returning to school to study engineering. 



Why'd you start a Fund?



You might ask, why raise money for school if scholarships worked well in the past? Great question. Since I've taken time off from school and am also switching careers, getting scholarships, especially for the first year of a Master's program, is harder and a bit of a longer process. That's fine, and I know that scholarships will eventually open up. However, taking out loans, applying for scholarships, and working while in school has a limit in that they impact just one individual. The Structural Engineering Education Fund, though, can extend its reach and help more students. In addition, the core pillars of effective disaster relief and mitigation are community building and mutual aid. The entire field requires a sustained, community-oriented effort. By starting a Fund, we are practicing community organizing. 


When students' needs are met, their hearts and minds can focus on engineering, its applications, and how to helps others. Engineering is beautiful in so many ways! Some may even call it sexy. (I very much agree.) When students are not in survival mode or in crisis, they can more easily contribute meaningfully to the field, to themselves, and to their communities.


In addition to identifying and assisting eligible students as I navigate UCSD's Master's program, I am committed to actively introducing our youngest (K-12) womxn of color to structural engineering, risk, resilience, and disaster mitigation. Representation is powerful. A diverse community of practitioners will empower us to strengthen our collective resilience against future disasters.


Tour of UCSD's Shake Table | Habitat for Humanity | Drooling over a Simpson-Tie model


What's the timeline? What can investors expect?



I seek to raise $150,000 by July 2024.


The cost to cover all tuition and rent for up to two years of rigorous graduate study at UCSD is approximately $90,000. In two years or less of fulltime study, I will have completed my Master's degree. This amount is based on the university's current schedule of fees and cost of living estimates for 2023-2024. A link at the bottom of this page gives more details. (Side note: I've applied for a Fellowship and will know by March if I've been selected. If so, I will update our amount to $50K.)

The remaining $60,000+ goes towards bridging gaps in tuition, rent, conference/internship costs, and other needs for other womxn of color in SE.


It is crucial to raise the full amount. Covering the cost of my own education is not enough. The world is truly changed by acting in community. 

By helping me, you help other underrepresented scholars cover last-mile gaps in their funding.

You help create psychological safety so more brain power can be funneled towards innovative and community-oriented engineering practices rather than an unexpected bill. 

This is the power of your investment. Because there's no overhead or layers of bureaucracy, you can be sure that your entire contributions goes straight to helping students.

 And, in return, you'll know that your contributions made a real difference, and that you've help change another person's life.



When you invest at any level, you will get:

  • Regular updates from me on how school is going, what I’m learning, and who I’m meeting through thriving, engaging TikTok and Instagram accounts

  • Email updates, twice per quarter, explaining what I learned, jargon-free so as to remain accessible and interesting to engineers and non-engineers alike

  • Updates from other students who are benefitting from this support

  • Detailed, nerdy updates on how I’m fusing my expertise in architecture, design and tech to explore new concepts in structural engineering and disaster resilience

  • Complete transparency into how the funds are being used (itemized report, sent quarterly) as well as their impact to the student(s)

  • Handwritten thank you note from me on a 4" x 4" building print, sent directly to your home or email


When you invest $1000 or more, you will also get:

  • 11 x 17 mounted and framed personal photography of bridges, buildings, and other structures — taken from 26 countries — with commentary on its structural significance.
    My photography has been featured on Adobe's Design Blog and, when I asked my network if they'd be interested in a coffee table book, over 100 people said yes.

  • A commitment from me to participate in outreach programs of your choice, including visiting schools or giving public presentations.

  • If you'd like, a commitment to include you or your organization in our social media posts.

  • Handwritten thank you note from me and the student(s) your donation helps.


For companies that invest $15,000 or more, you will also get: 

  • 24 x 36 mounted and framed photography of structures — with effort taken to tailor the subject to your company's location, specialty, or interest.

  • A commitment from me to participate in outreach programs at or for your company, including preparing demos, giving public presentations, and speaking at important Board meetings.

  • A commitment to intern, work at, or otherwise contribute significantly to your company post-graduation for an agreed-upon duration of time. This allows me to pour back into the well in a practical and meaningful way. As an EIT, I will definitely have lots to learn from you. As an experienced architectural and software design professional, I am certain to have contributions to you, as well.


Enjoying my first architecture job



Learn more about me



I imagine you'd like to know the person you're investing in. Since my name's spelling and pronunciation are unique, type it into Google and read about me. You'll see a robust and storied career history on LinkedIn, graduate school essays on my personal websites, interviews with the press, music on Spotify, and several published pieces about my architectural photography. Additional links are also at the close of this post.


In addition, these four pillars show up prominently in the way I spend my time, energy, and money.


1. Mutual aid and community uplift.

2. Knowledge and autodidactism.

3. Environmentalism.

4. Self development.


Though much of my life is public, here's something a bit more personal. I gave a presentation on five pivotal moments that have shaped my life at a closed company event last year. I'd just been accepted to UCSD's prestigious program and was so excited to share my story and love for engineering with others.





Selected Honors


Internships

Earthquake Engineering Research Institute

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation


Graduate

SE Pathways Travel Grant | SEAONC Conference, Indian Wells

EERI Travel Grant | 10NCEE in Anchorage, Alaska and 12NCEE in Salt Lake City, Utah

Thesis Presentation at 10th National Conference on Earthquake Engineering (10NCEE)

Buckminster Fuller Merit Scholarship

Third Place, PELLA Architectural Fenestration Competition


Undergraduate

International Languages & Cultures Departmental Honors and International Distinction

First Place, Music Teachers Association of Missouri Composition Competition

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship with the United States Department of State

DAAD Undergraduate Scholarship

Woman of Excellence Scholarship at the Junior Year in Munich

German American Heritage Society (GAHS) Study Abroad Grant

Leif Sverdrup International Scholarship

E. Desmond & Mary Ann Lee Endowment Scholarship

Munich Summer Fellows -  Junior Year in Munich – Wayne State University and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Bravo! Grant – Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis

Webster University Dean's List

Webster University SGA Leadership Scholarship

Webster University Dean’s Award for Service

Webster University Academic Scholarship

Boys Hope Girls Hope Tahaney Leadership Scholarship

Boys Hope Girls Hope Academic Recognition Award


In closing

I am so grateful that you've stopped by. I cannot overstate how happy I am that you are here, checking out the Fund. I look forward to advancing global disaster mitigation with you at my side. Please join me for this wild and beautiful ride.


Links

UCSD Tuition and Fees for California Residents: https://students.ucsd.edu/finances/fees/registration/2022-23/graduate.html

https://fas.ucsd.edu/cost-of-attendance/graduate-students/graduates_2023-2024.html


Portfolios: 

(Design) www.brijhettefarmer.com (soon to be updated)

(School) www.brijhettefarmer.work

(Photography) www.bigbookofbuildings.photography


LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/brijhettefarmer
TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@structures.for.wo


Other payment methods (please label SE FOR WMXN): 

PayPal: paypal.me/astrohfiziks

Cash app: $astrohfiziks

Venmo: @astrohfiziks