Aerospace faculty member Debbie Senesky tells students they belong

Debbie Senesky

The School of Engineering profiled DEBBIE SENESKY, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, who found that a supportive family, a gift for math, a solid work ethic and strong mentors were the formula for her success that she now shares.

In the interview, she talks about being a first-generation college student, taking risks, discovering creativity as a research assistant at Berkeley, flirting with industry and finding her way to Stanford.

She also talked about mentoring the next generation:

“Even when I’m the only woman or person of color in a room full of engineers, I’m comfortable because moving from school to school in my childhood cultivated resilience, adaptability and determination. I try to develop those qualities in my students. I’m a role model for students who look like me, and I want to show them we can be successful in this field and enjoy it. Engineering is hard. Personally, I’ve had very positive experiences. I’ve gotten the sense that my field wants to see women and women of color be successful, but it’s still challenging. My group is pretty diverse, and when students are having a hard time, I tell them to use the resources around them, even if that’s as simple as office hours, focus on the people who want them to succeed, and speak their minds even when it goes against the grain because I want them to express themselves fully in the way that I was able to. I walk them to the window, and I tell them to look at the view, and I tell them, ‘You made it. You are here. You belong.’”