She is originally from Eutaw, Alabama. When she first started thinking about college, her checklist included self-discovery. “I knew that I needed to go to an HBCU, specifically because I needed to understand who I am as a black woman in America.”
After deciding to attend a historically black college and pursue engineering, Tuskegee University was the perfect choice. “That was the best decision I made in my life, for sure.”
Following graduation, she began working in an engineering leadership rotation program at Boeing in Seattle, where she is exploring various operations within the company, “to experience different areas of engineering and leverage skills that will enable me to either lead a managerial or technical based path within the company.”
It is now abundantly clear that Asya was wise to follow her instincts about her college selection. Asked how Tuskegee University prepared her for her career, she says “Tuskegee really prepared me for life. Working in the STEM field as a double minority—a black woman—can become intimidating and you really can’t survive in that arena unless you know who you are. At Tuskegee, I gained a sense of who I was; my value and what I add to any organization that I am a part of.”
Though she is now a career woman working and living on the West Coast, she carries Tuskegee in her heart.
It is an unbreakable bond forged by experiences that boosted her self-assurance, like when she took the Miss SGA title to a new level. “I had a women’s empowerment conference called High Heels in High Places. I interviewed as a freshman. I just showed them who I was. They believed in my passion and commitment to make a change and rewarded me with the opportunity. The role of Miss SGA before that was undefined, so I wanted to do something to leave a legacy. I wanted to help motivate and inspire women on our campus both professionally and personally.”
Asya says this was the first women’s empowerment conference at Tuskegee University and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “Many people were touched by it. There were different workshops on things like how to communicate, how to network, how to leverage personal and professional skills to lead within the community and professional world. Just seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces and seeing that they were actually gaining something, meant a lot to me. This reaffirmed my passion and helped me evolve as a person. I like to motivate and encourage people. I love to see people smiling. Now, I want to leave a legacy on this earth and not just Tuskegee.”
In spite of her achievements, her assessment of her life is surprising. She started out saying, “No, I am not Living The Dream.” And then softened this position by explaining her life thus far is not the definitive reason she was put on this earth—but it is fulfilling. With a sense of humility and gratitude, she added, “I’m from a very small town. Not a lot of people go to college. Not a lot people have careers or get to do half the things I have done. So the fact that I am one of the first in my family to go to college, graduate, move to another city for a great career and get to see a lot of different things…I can definitely say that I am living a dream.”
And if other young, black girls and boys see her life as “a” dream, that’s fine with her. “I want to communicate to all of them that they can do anything they want to. You have to put your mind to it, put God first and work hard. You can work at a Fortune 500 company and be the only black person in the whole building and surpass any stereotypical expectations people may think about you.
Asya further explains that engineering is not her personal dream but she acknowledges that engineering is an integral part of her destiny. “For me, Living The Dream will involve empowering others, lifting up people in my community, giving back, being an entrepreneur and really encouraging STEM-related majors because that is looked down upon in our communities. There is no doubt that we can produce many more engineers and STEM professionals. Considering the depth of success and resilience of our ancestors, we can do anything.”
In essence, she has a wonderful life and is moving in the direction of her ultimate purpose. With an engineering degree and a world-changing platform, Asya Steele meets our criteria for Living “The” Dream, even though by her own standards, she is not there – yet.