Speaker’s advice: Forge shield to protect weakness

HOUGHTON — Robin Johnson-Cash spoke at Michigan Technological University’s Alumni Room of the Memorial Union Building on campus Tuesday evening. She was the featured speaker of Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s Improved Social Justice Lecture Series.

Johnson-Cash, the first African-American woman to earn a PhD from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Mechanics (MMEM), offered some insightful advice to the students who were present for her talk.

“First, recognize your gift. You have a unique talent that is unmistakeable,” she said. “I discovered mine pretty early. I discovered I was really good in math, while spelling, well, not so much. So this knowledge allowed me a personal confidence that allowed me to stand tall in the face of criticism and being devalued.”

Johnson-Cash challenged students to expose themselves to the boundless possibilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“If your mind is exposed to small things, you’ll dream small,” she cautioned. “But when your mind is exposed to big things, you dream huge. And so, you should investigate many STEM, and many other opportunities. Select something that aligns with your gift and, of course, the vision that you have for yourself. The knowledge gained will help solidify your unwavering vision.”

She then advised students not to shrink from their fears but rather to embrace them.

“Face your fears,” she said. “I struggled with reading in school. And I was fearful that my teachers would call on me to read aloud. And then, I would mispronounce a word, or not know a word, and my fear was the entire class would laugh at me. So, this was my weakness. So, what I did was I was prepared for each and every class. I would read ahead in the text, making certain I knew every word, every pronunciation, what it meant, and I was shielding my weakness. Eliminating my fear I forged a shield to protect a weakness in my armor. Let fear fuel your passion for success. Establish a premier work ethic.”