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Q&A with Lehigh grad student Kavita Jain-Cocks

First year Lehigh Engineering student Salvador “Josh” Tarun sat down for a conversation with graduate student Kavita Jain-Cocks. Jain-Cocks, a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native, earned her bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Columbia University before returning to her hometown to earn her masters.

Jain-Cocks talked about coming back to Bethlehem, her experiences on campus and the rise of women in engineering.

Josh Tarun: Can you tell me why, of all the colleges that you could have chosen, you picked Lehigh Univerity?

Kavita Jain-Cocks: There were a lot of factors, but I think a big one was that it was close to home. My mother works here, my brother goes here, and it’s nice to spend time with my family.

I also felt that I would get an opportunity at Lehigh to maybe do some hands-on work so that I could further develop some skills that I could not develop as an undergrad. I have had the chance to do an independent study project and just take some more time to work on the skills that I needed.

JT: So have you been able to do the things that you have wanted to at Lehigh? Has it met your expectations?

KJ-C: Yes! It has. Last semester I was a teaching assistant (T.A.) for a computer science class. Although I already knew some of the material, while teaching other people, it was useful because I began to realize all of the things I didn’t understand the first time around. Because of that, I think it was a really great experience for me.

This past semester, I started an independent study project, which is not something I had done before, so I think that’s also really good. At the same time, I’ve also been able to participate in some clubs, which I didn’t always have time for as an undergrad student because of classes.

JT: It’s good to be able to participate in things outside of studying, which brings me to my next question. Can you elaborate on some of the clubs and activities that you have been involved in on campus?

KJ-C: Sure! I think the big one is WISE (Women in Science and Engineering.) I started out developing the newsletter during fall semester, and now I’m working on the executive board. It’s a new program, but we’re trying to do a lot of work to reach out to women in science and engineering and help create an environment where women are able to excel.

One of the big projects we did this semester is a mentorship program, and we are one of many mentorship groups that give people a place to talk to faculty and other students that they normally wouldn’t, allowing them to learn from other’s life experiences. Right now, there’s a negotiation series we’re running. We’re inviting faculty and outside members of the community as well to work with people who would desire to work on their negotiation skills.

JT: It’s obvious that engineering is a particularly male-dominated field. Do you feel that WISE and other clubs established around Lehigh have been able to encourage women to become engineers?

KJ-C: I think that they’re all extremely important clubs and they’ve been great to let people feel like they have a community to talk to. I know that I have a meeting with my mentorship group once a week and it’s been really great to talk to people who are further along in the path I’m taking. They can get advice and they can talk about issues that they might encounter.

JT: Okay, I think there’s one final question. If you had to tell someone why they should come to Lehigh, what would your advice for them be?

KJ-C: I think Lehigh students in general tend to be very involved in their community, and they feel very proud of Lehigh. They are very proud to be here. There are also great academic and extracurricular opportunities, and I think it creates a really great community that if you work hard enough, you can get involved in. It’s a very well-rounded college experience.

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