Story by Emily Knitter, '19
Photos by Liam McGurl, '17, '19
The St. Bonaventure University freshman class of 2018 was the largest in more than a decade, and now boasts 523 students. The ratio of men to women is almost exactly 1:1. Yet out of that 2018 freshman class, only two women declared a computer science major.
Emma Fox is one of those women.
No stranger to forging her own path, Fox grew up in the rural community of Medina, N.Y., where her high school offered more classes on farming than it did on computers.
“I was very uninterested in farming and I loved computer labs,” she said. “I had one option to take a class with a programming focus. After that class I went on and took the advanced self-study course, but it was all over by 10th grade and there were no other courses I could take.”
Determined to continue learning, she began doing research at home and teaching herself everything she could. Although she never took another formal course on the subject, she was sure she wanted to pursue a career in the tech industry and tailored her college search to schools with that focus.
It seemed destined she would attend a large tech school in a big city.
But at a family party, she found herself chatting with her cousin, Alison Garlock, a current sophomore math major at Bona’s. After hearing how much Garlock loved the university, Fox decided to apply.
Two weeks later she received a letter saying not only had she been accepted, but that she had been awarded the Friar’s Scholarship, which would cover half the tuition. Shortly thereafter, Fox visited the university in person.
“I was floored,” she said. “One of my professors even hand wrote me a letter before I got there. By the end of the visit my mom told me that if she could do college again, she would choose St. Bonaventure herself.”
The personal, intimate feel ended up being the deciding factor for Fox, who felt at a larger university she would not have the same accessibility to faculty as she does at Bona’s.
Although the culture of the university felt perfect, it did nothing to change the fact Fox was entering into a major where she is the significant minority. But the resilience and work ethic she developed in high school from being in a similar situation has helped her succeed, and it has not gone unnoticed.
“Emma is a serious student who keeps up with the material in the class,” said Dr. Steven Andrianoff, associate professor of computer science and chair of the department. “She has shown a willingness to work through challenges with the programming labs and other assignments. It is this characteristic that will help her be successful.”
She is thankful the challenges in her past have continuously pushed her.
“In so many ways, my entire childhood helped me become a much stronger person,” she said.
Back then and still today, Fox said she feels pressure to work harder than everyone else to prove to others, and herself, that she deserves to be in this field.
“Sometimes I feel like it shouldn’t have to be that way,” she said. “But in the end, I know it is benefiting me because now I am not afraid to go after what I want, regardless of outside ideas.”
In many ways, Fox’s freshman year has mimicked her life.
“Most everything I have done has felt like an uphill battle,” she said. “But it has given me a voice and allowed me to speak out.”
She said that hearing something “can’t” be done only makes her want to try harder to prove them wrong.
Yet at St. Bonaventure, Fox said there has been a shift. She said for once, she is no longer gaining motivation from resistance to her goals, but from the support she feels from every person she comes in contact with.
“The community is incredible,” she said. “I can go to people and ask for help, or for collaborations. For so many projects, I can work with anyone that I want to. I’m not limited to what I can do by myself. Everything feels open sourced and that is very valuable to me.”
Fox will continue to push for the causes that are close to her heart. But for the first time she has found a community who is willing to push with her.
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