In Their Words: Enacting Change Through STEM

This new series In Their Words highlights our past recipients of the Moton Family Challenge Scholarship. Follow us as we provide an update on how the scholarship and your support has helped these young scholars advance their education.

Excelling in a high-demand field and providing guidance for the National Science Foundation are among the numerous accomplishments Andrea Parrish is achieving at The University of Virginia.

Parrish is a 2018 recipient of the Moton Family Challenge Scholarship.

“It is an honor to receive this scholarship because of the historical importance of the Robert Russa Moton Museum so it means a lot to both myself and my family,” Parrish said. “This scholarship has not only allowed me to pursue a STEM degree at my university, but it has also allowed me to learn more about my family’s history — and that is certainly something I do not take for granted.”

Parrish is the granddaughter of Annie Clark Nunnally.

Parrish, in her junior year, is majoring in Systems Engineering. It differs from other engineering programs, Parrish said, in that it focuses on how a particular system in society or business is designed, integrated, or managed.

“For example, systems engineers can help a business create a new smartphone app, they help design it — thinking of everything from the layout of the app to what features are included in the app to how customers will be able to use it,” Parrish said. “Then, systems engineers might also help that business develop a training plan so that they can easily teach their employees how the app works and how they can maintain the app long-term. That’s just one example of what systems engineers do, but the field itself is pretty broad and your area of expertise can be anything you want.

“Personally, I am interested in analyzing the data gained from a system, to help improve it, and looking at the human factors involved in a system,” Parrish said.

The Systems Engineering major is in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. Parrish’s major perfectly links her interests and aptitude in business and mathematics. The Family Challenge Scholarship has aided Parrish in excelling in a field where barriers continue to exist for women of color in science and engineering, according to findings from The Pew Research Center.

“I enjoy the variety of knowledge that I am able to gain in Systems Engineering,” Parrish said. “Whether I am learning new technical skills, like a programming language, or I am improving upon my soft skills like public speaking, I am always learning something new in my classes that can applied to a variety of career fields after I graduate.”

Parrish’s achievements have extended beyond UVA. Her research and guidance are being used to train new staff members in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and to further study the demographic information of the NSF panelists.

Parrish took part in an internship this summer with the NSF, based in Washington D.C.

Her first role with the NSF was creating a guidebook for one of the NSF agency’s many programs.

“The booklet is now being used to help train newly hired staff members,” Parrish said.

“In addition, another project was to analyze data on the panelists at the NSF by their demographic information — i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, and disabilities,” Parrish said. “These panelists decide which research proposals are selected for funding. After analyzing the data, I was able to present my findings to leadership within the NSF and give my own personal recommendations for improvements.”

Following graduation, Parrish’s skill set will be in high demand in a number of industries. Parrish is interested in working at a consulting firm to help clients and businesses succeed, and attending graduate school.

The Family Challenge Scholarships are available to direct lineal descendants of a student or students denied a public education or displaced by the public school closings in Prince Edward County between the years 1959-1964.

To learn more about the scholarship program, or how to apply, visit

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