National STEM Day Spotlight: Ally Barrett

Being a student-athlete is a full-time job, and on National STEM Day, we’re spotlighting someone who has one of the toughest jobs of all: Ally Barrett, a UConn volleyball student-athlete in the STEM field. Barrett is a senior from Geneva, Illinois. She is an outside hitter on the volleyball team as well as a chemical engineering major.

Barrett said she always loved math and planned to major in math, but during her freshman year of high school she took AP chemistry and loved it. Her teacher encouraged her to consider chemical engineering in college, so she decided to give it a try, and it’s still with her over three years later. However, Barrett said that despite the name, there isn’t as much chemistry involved in chemical engineering as one might think.

Barrett said chemical engineering has its pros and cons. It’s a lot of hard work, but she really loves the small, tight-knit community.

“There are about 60 of us in our class, and we almost all take the same classes because it’s such a strict schedule,” Barrett said. “So you know a lot of your class, and you go to class and you see all your friends. If you’re ever struggling, you have so many people you can go to.”

Barrett said it was a tough schedule with the demanding chemical engineering program in addition to volleyball.

“Life is very busy, but it’s like organized chaos,” Barrett said. “We have a training block for volleyball and then you schedule all your lessons. So you just have to take time. I make little appointments with myself… You just have to really manage the time, but it’s very busy.”

She said it’s hard not to get overwhelmed sometimes, but staying organized is a big help. Barrett tries to schedule her day with her diary and take it one thing at a time so she feels like she’s getting things done. She said volleyball actually helps her get things done because when she’s busiest, she’s also the most productive.

“Even if it takes me a long time, [volleyball] also taught me a lot of management skills [time]”, Barrett said. “In a way, being so busy with volleyball, it actually helps me.”

Volleyball is also a way for Barrett to counter the stress of her college life with something she really loves.

“I’ve been playing volleyball very competitively since eighth grade,” Barrett said. “It’s part of who I am. When I get on the pitch I can’t even explain it because it’s not just doing something that I love, it’s doing something that is who I’m in. Even on bad days, you feel like it’s a really nice break, and I’m very lucky to be able to do that.”

She said she doesn’t take the opportunity to play college volleyball for granted because she knows that after this year she will never play volleyball very competitively again.

Barrett said she already started applying for jobs after graduation. She really enjoys the hands-on lab and research part of chemical engineering, so she hopes to land a position that will allow her to continue in that direction. But she said she was keeping all her options open.

Being a STEM major is tough. Being a student-athlete is tough. Combining the two is incredible, and Barrett deserves applause. His advice to young student-athletes pursuing a STEM major is simple: do things early and don’t procrastinate.

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