Her largest wish for people who look like her is for them to have confidence.
Viveka Borum, a 36-year-old professor at Spelman College was used to being the only black woman in the room and never imagined being in the position she is in now.
She’s the first-generation to graduate college in her family, born to blue-collar parents who never wanted her to work in a factory.
She was “almost always the only black female in” her college courses at Wayne State University and Columbia University.
“[The racial divide] was very intimidating, but I never considered leaving because of it. Failure is not an option for me,” Borum said.
Lack of African American support was a struggle for Viveka, she had no one who looked like her to mentor her. No one who understood why her position was such a huge deal, and no one who could relate to her. Still, Borum pushed on. Her individuality was her driving force.
At Columbia University, Dr. Borum conducted extensive research on African Americans in mathematics, and noticed the lack of diversity in the STEM fields. She also saw the lack of conversation on HBCU’s producing more STEM graduates than PWI’s. Viveka wanted the world to know that Black people have been and can be successful in STEM jobs.
Studies done by the National Institutes of Health show that the top ten producers of students who graduate with their doctorate in STEM attend HBCU’s. Still, statistics from the New Republic show that Black people only hold 6% of the jobs in the STEM field.
“I wanted to know why there weren’t a lot of black students in STEM.”
This interest in People of Color in STEM, as well as a love for “A Different World” (a show filmed on Spelman and Morehouse’s campus) made her teaching at Spelman inevitable. In 2012, Borum began as a professor at the prestigious HBCU.
Dr. Borum is deeply spiritual, believing that “her faith guided her to Spelman.”
Through her faith, she has created “an environment of acceptance, love, and learning through mistakes,” for the young women.
Borum always had high aspirations for herself and recalls, “I used to want to be a lawyer, then an anesthesiologist, never a teacher though.”
When she attended her first math class at Wayne State though, Viveka knew she had found her true passion.
“I just fell in love with it.”
The ambitious young Borum, after receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mathematics, decided to enter Columbia University’s doctoral program in mathematics education. Though it was a lot of work, Viveka successfully graduated in 2010.
Borum doesn’t go easy on the young women, often reminding them they’ll have to work twice as hard.
“They need to know that, and that they can do it.”
Viveka knows that “Just because you don’t see someone who looks like you in your field, doesn’t mean you can’t be in that field.”
She is committed to fighting for People of Color and helping them be successful in whatever field they choose.