During her senior year at a Catholic high school in Cap-Haïtien, a port city in Haiti known for its colonial French architecture, Flore Stécie Norcéide finally got to take a basic computer class – and discovered how much she enjoyed it.
“Even before that, every time my parents or someone in my family had a problem with their computer or phone, they asked me for help,” she says.
Previously, Norcéide had planned to study international relations in Haiti. Switching to computer engineering required a big change in plans, because colleges and universities in Haiti generally lack up-to-date computer technology and infrastructure.
With her family’s help and encouragement, Norcéide applied to colleges near family members in the United States. She chose Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Conn., where she could live with an uncle’s family. After earning an associate’s degree with honors, she transferred to UMass Lowell, near another uncle.
Key attractions here included admission to the Honors College, a scholarship for international transfer students – and RAMP, a free, six-credit summer program aimed at preparing incoming women engineering students to succeed by boosting their computer skills and connecting them with faculty, alumni and each other.
At RAMP – Research, Academic and Mentoring Pathways – she made friends and found a mentor in Assoc. Dean Kavitha Chandra. She now works in Chandra’s lab.
“I was worried about adapting to a larger school and larger class sizes. Being around the school and being around mentors who could guide me really helped with the transition,” Norcéide says. “The Python and MatLab skills I learned helped me in every computer engineering class.”
Chandra also nominated Norcéide to receive one of the first Oprah Winfrey Scholarships. Norcéide is grateful for all the support.
“Without scholarships, I couldn’t study computer engineering,” she says. “My parents get paid in Haitian currency, and every time they have to convert it to American dollars, it costs them a lot.”
Norcéide plans to get some work experience and a Ph.D. Then she will take everything she’s learned back home.
“I want to implement educational programs in Haiti so that any other student there who wants to pursue a career in computing could do it,” she says.