JoAnn Slama Lighty
I spent my earliest years playing with Barbie dolls and enjoying art projects. Maybe not what you’d expect from a future chemical engineering professor.
I found I liked math and chemistry, but in the 1970s being the smartest girl in class at my high school was not a road to popularity. This situation caused a lot of hurt and pain. I was lucky to have a mentor to help me through.
My English teacher at my Catholic high school was a wonderful nun who really helped me. In my journal assignments, I shared details of my struggles. As we dialogued, she helped me understand my need for a deeper relationship with Christ and that God had a plan for my life.
Once I trusted that God had a plan, a lot fell into place. I loved chemistry and math, and a former neighbor, an engineering professor, convinced me to be a chemical engineer instead of a chemist. It was right for me.
As a woman in a field populated mostly by men, the journey has not always been easy, but it has made me appreciate the skills and drive that make up my life experiences and who I am.
As a professor, I pray that each student I interact with realizes they have a purpose, that there’s an awesome plan for their lives, and that their uniqueness is what makes them extraordinary. That’s what makes my job so great and so important – every student is different, every need is different!