In 2022, Ally Orr was a senior at Boise State University, studying marketing and preparing for her post-collegiate career. In short, she had no business creating a Women in STEM Scholarship, but circumstances at her university led her to do just that. In 2021, a professor at Boise State appeared at a conference and issued an opinion that women should not pursue careers in STEM; and after hearing his comments, Orr felt like she had to do something. She went on to create a GoFundMe page for a Women in STEM Scholarship at Boise State that ultimately raised over $215,000. Putting her marketing degree to use, Orr appeared on Good Morning America and ABC News as well as in People Magazine, to help spread awareness of her scholarship. In April 2022, she was able to distribute the first award and share that the scholarship would become an endowed scholarship at Boise State moving forward, distributing four to eight awards per year to women in STEM fields.In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to chat with Orr again about the status of the scholarship for women in STEM today as well as her further efforts to champion women. When we interviewed you last year, you had yet to present the award. How did the application and award season turn out, i.e. how many applicants did the program have? How did you select the final winner? It was incredibly amazing to see the evolution of the scholarship go from being just an idea to then being in the hands of a woman studying engineering at Boise State University (BSU) in under five months. I had the incredibly fun and difficult job of fundraising for about five months to create this opportunity for women, but part of the philanthropic aspect of raising funds for the University is that donors have to relinquish control of the gift in order for it to be philanthropic.I do know there were many qualified applicants, but I do not know the details of how many there were because it is up to the Boise State Financial Aid Office to review applications and select the recipients. I was very glad to be separated from the selection of the scholarship winner because I want to give every woman pursuing a degree in STEM, medicine, and law a scholarship, and I never could have made that difficult decision myself! What’s the status of the scholarship now? Will you award on an annual basis? How much did you raise? What will future awards look like? On December 13th of 2021, when I had raised enough money to sign into contract the endowed “Women in STEM, Medicine, and Law Scholarship” I had no idea the scholarship fund would ever reach such a large number. At the time, I had raised about $35,000 so I signed into contract that one woman would receive the scholarship annually.In May, I had raised about $217,000 and so I decided it was time to spread the love and amend the scholarship to reflect that. Today the scholarship will be given to a minimum of four women and a maximum of eight women annually, based on what the applications look like each year. As the scholarship continues to grow, I will continue to amend it so that more women can receive funds to support their dreams and goals. Last year, I raised $217,524.96 and today the scholarship fund sits at $467,524.96 (with $250,000 of that number belonging to an estate commitment). What are you doing now? I am currently working for Applied Materials as a Business Analyst, and I have an amazing team that has been so supportive of the scholarship. I interned at Applied during my junior and senior year of college, and I have found amazing people who continue to push me to pursue my passions and grow. The scholarship was the best part of my senior year of college, but it also completely consumed my time, so I missed out on a lot of events, activities, and friends during that time. I have spent the last eight months building community, strengthening friendships, trying out new hobbies like swing dancing and roller skating, and taking the time to rest. I have spent this time reflecting on my experiences while fundraising for the scholarship and have realized I want to pursue law. I have been taking time to study for the LSAT to apply to law schools this year and hopefully attend law school in 2024. One of my hobbies is photography, so I started a small photography business that is devoted to women empowerment. I do portraits, boudoir, themed shoots, breakup shoots, and anything else that helps women see their true beauty and step into their confidence. I knew I wanted to continue to advocate to women after the scholarship, so being able to tie together two passions has been an incredible amount of fun! How has the scholarship creation process contributed to what you’re doing professionally? The scholarship has completely changed the trajectory of my life. I originally wanted to pursue a Master’s in Data Analytics, but since creating the scholarship and having to jump through many legal hoops and face many difficult scenarios when trying to ensure the success of the scholarship, I realized I wanted to pursue law. I experienced how hard it truly is to create initiatives to uplift women, and faced backlash for doing so. Because of this backlash I realized that the best way I can positively impact the lives of women, is through a law degree, and being able to advocate for them in different aspects regarding the law. The Idaho Women Lawyers group donated to the scholarship and really took me under their wing as they cheered me on, donated to the scholarship, attended the scholarship celebration where we awarded the first scholarship, and invited me to speak at their retreat this upcoming May. They are a group of phenomenal women, and they truly gave me the confidence to commit to pursuing law. Have you handed off the scholarship to Boise State? Or are you still involved? Boise State holds the scholarship and distributes the funds to the winners annually, and I get to do the fun job of continuing to fundraise and advocate for women in STEM, medicine, and law. I knew I wanted to continue fundraising , because women are still severely underrepresented in STEM fields. According to the US Census Bureau, women make up nearly half the workforce, yet they only make up 27% of STEM workers. I decided that bringing awareness to the this issue and raising the overall scholarship fund number is how I am going to help increase that percentage year after year. Each March, I am planning on setting a fundraising goal and doing my best to achieve it so I can create the excellent problem of having to amend the scholarship so more women can receive it. For this Women’s History Month, the goal is to raise $27,000 to honor the 27% of women who are STEM workers and to encourage more women to enter STEM fields to close the gap. I have also decided to add to my original merch line I created last year, Meddlesome Merch, and create new t-shirt designs this year. All the proceeds from the Meddlesome Merch Shop go to the scholarship! • GoFundMe • Meddlesome Merch Are you feeling the itch to do more in the scholarship realm? I participated in Dance Marathon, which is a six-month long fundraiser leading up to a 24hr dance event where students raise money for Children’s Hospitals, and that is truly when I fell in love with fundraising. The skills I gained from Dance Marathon were key in helping me fundraise for the scholarship. I love the nonprofit sector, and I think that after law school I will likely end up working for a nonprofit and potentially start my own nonprofit that helps women pursue higher education. What advice to you have for scholarship applicants, given the unique role you played in creating and awarding a scholarship? I remember being a freshman in college and not pursuing scholarships, activities, or goals because I was scared of failure and the word “no.” Today, the word failure is the best thing that can ever happen to me. My most creative and innovative self truly emerges when I face failure or the word “no.” My advice to scholarship applicants is that the worst thing that could happen is that you don’t receive the scholarship this year, and you apply again next year. Apply for the scholarship, the job, the internship, the club, the role, and everything else that completely terrifies you. Your next “no” or your next failure is your biggest opportunity that could change the trajectory of your life for the better. Is there anything else you would like to share? While fundraising for the scholarship, I received many messages in-person, on the GoFundMe page, and through my email of women telling me stories about times they faced gender discrimination in the workforce and in education. My heart broke and continues to break every time I read their stories and continue to hear new stories. The most saddening part about these stories is that they said they felt completely alone and that they donated because they never wanted another woman to face what they had to. Since then, I have been brainstorming what I can do with these stories filled with hope and despair and realized that all these stories deserve to be seen next to one another. I am currently working on a book that will highlight these women’s stories and walk the reader through what it really feels like to be a Woman in STEM, medicine, and law. I am actively seeking women’s stories of both discrimination and inspiring events in the workplace and education. If women want to share their stories, they can email me at email@example.com.
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