Dana is a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders. She’s also a systems engineer for General Dynamics. Check this out:
SciCheer: Hey Dana! Engineering? You’re a girl! What gives?
Dana: Engineering is based on math. I’ve loved math and science for as long as I can remember. I liked that math required more than simple memorization and recitation, unlike other subjects where the correct answers can be subjective to the grader.
SciCheer: What is your degree in and from where?
Dana: I graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2009 with my Bachelors of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering.
SciCheer: Favorite and/or least favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
Dana: My favorite courses I took to prepare for my degree were Physics and Dynamics. They’re the best combination of math formulas and scientific circumstances.
SciCheer: Best part of your day job?
Dana: The best part of my job is that the product we build helps everyone around us. The project that I work on develops commercial-off-the-shelf based software and hardware upgrades to assimilate improved tactical control capabilities for various United States and Australian submarine classes. My coworkers and I have a great team and everyone works together really well, which helps with productivity.
SciCheer: Tell us about the team(s) you cheer(ed) for, how long you’ve cheered for them, and why you tried out to be a professional cheerleader.
Dana: I started cheering when I was 5 for an area recreational team, nothing too competitive, called Jacobs Rd Association. I cheered there until I was 11, and the more I liked it, the more my parents enrolled me in gymnastic classes and other things to advance my skills. In middle school I started cheering for an all-star team (USA All-Stars) as well as my middle school squad (Manchester Middle). Then in high school I did the same thing, both squads, for all four years. When I got to Virginia Tech I knew I wanted to be a part of the AMAZING Athletic program there, so I tried out, and made that team. I cheered there my entire time at the University and was lucky enough to be Captain my senior year! I tried out to be a Baltimore Ravens Cheerleader because the Ravens are the only cheerleading team in the NFL with a full co-ed stunt team. That’s the reason I was attracted to the Ravens opposed to another professional team.
SciCheer: Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders influenced others around you?
Dana: I want to say that cheerleader stereotypes didn’t hinder my classroom and professional experiences, but I’m not sure that’s 100% true. I think people expect less out of you once they realize that you’re a cheerleader because some people think: “Girls who are serious about school shouldn’t bother with extracurricular activities because they won’t have the time or shouldn’t have any distractions.” So I think because of that generalization, some people automatically expect less out of cheerleaders, especially academically.
SciCheer: How do your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in engineering?
Dana: My teammates think it’s great that I’m an engineer and cheerleader, so I’ve never experienced rejection because of the combo. The most common reaction I get is a shocked one, because of the time commitment they both require. An engineering course load is enough to keep you busy in college by itself, so adding extracurricular activities to that seems illogical.
SciCheer: Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Dana: Don’t settle. You don’t have to choose between the two and give up something you love. You should develop great time management skills, because you’re going to be busy if you want to be successful in both, but it’s not impossible. It’s good to go against the grain and be the odd ball out once in a while, and I’m sure there are people around you who wish they had the courage to do the same!
SciCheer: Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Dana: Push harder while you’re younger, because everything is easier then. It’s easier to advance your skills (tumbling and stunting) when you’re younger, it’s also easier to instill great habits in your daily routine when you’re younger. So study habits, learning methods, and things that are good for everyday health (like brushing your teeth at night) should all start young, and they’ll stick with you your entire life. For cheering, once you have those skills you develop when you’re young, you’re likely to have them as an adult thanks to muscle memory alone.
SciCheer: What are your plans for the future?
Dana: My plans for the future are to eventually go back to school and get my Masters in Engineering Management
SciCheer: Best cheerleading experience?
Dana:I’ll never forget going to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans my freshman year at Tech, and being on the field for our season opener my rookie year with the Ravens.
SciCheer:Best science/engineering-related experience?
Dana: Earning my degree from Virginia Tech. Everything it entailed, the entire journey, is probably impossible to put into words. I learned how hard I can be pushed, how hard I can push yourself, and really discovered the value in reward and self-achievement.
SciCheer:Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Dana: I want to be a Science Cheerleader so I can use my God-given talents, not only for myself, but to inspire young girls to be successful in the classroom without giving up extracurricular activities. Being able to encourage the younger generation to feel accomplished inside and outside of the classroom is a great thing!
Learn more about the Science Cheerleaders, pro-cheerleaders pursuing careers in science and technology.