Maya DeJesus '17, majoring in Creative Arts & Technology (CAT) at Bloomfield College, has been awarded a scholarship and mentorship through the AIAS Foundation (Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences).
The AIAS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, awarded eleven women students, including DeJesus, for its first round of WomenIn scholarships. Students across the country were awarded for the 2016-2017 academic school year to pursue video-game related careers at accredited four-year college and universities.
“The importance of winning this award to me is setting a statement for myself,” said DeJesus. “Growing up in poverty, I never thought in a million years I would be able to obtain an award this great. The money is neat, but what it stands for is more neat. It lets me know I deserve what I have worked for.”
Each student received $2,500 to advance their academic career and an opportunity to attend the 2017 D.I.C.E. Summit through the Foundation’s mentor program. The Summit pass in Las Vegas, valued at over $3,000, plus flight and hotel are provided for the recipients as well.
"These eleven AIAS Foundation WomenIn scholars are great examples of how and by whom the games industry will continue to grow and diversify in the future," said Don Daglow, President, AIAS Foundation.
Established in 2016, these scholarships seek to support inclusion of more women in the interactive entertainment industry supported by a year-long mentorship program with a gaming industry professional. Winners were evaluated by the AIAS Foundation Scholarship Committee based on their GPA, financial need, letters of recommendation, and willingness to create change for the games industry.
“Underrepresentation of women is a salient problem not only in the game industry and similar fields, but in academia as well,” said Brian S. Chung, a faculty member in the CAT Divison. “I’m happy to support in every possible way that I can, but nothing can come close to replacing the value of having women role models who can provide mentorship and share their experiences. We have far to go, and this is only the first step.”
“The lack of women in this industry is a very obvious problem, and we have a lot of work to do,” added fellow faculty member, GJ Lee. “This is a positive step forward and I want to see the CAT Division continue to make our students visible, heard, and properly supported. We must be active about inclusion beyond diversity.”
Both Chung and Lee, who wrote DeJesus’ recommendation letters, have seen this problem first-hand in their respective industries and are committed to addressing it. They create opportunities to bring women role models onto campus to lead workshops, guest lectures, and showcase their work.
“Women in power shouldn't be a joke. It should be something all women should aspire to be if they so choose,” said DeJesus, who transferred to Bloomfield College after hearing of its competitive CAT division. “Hopefully with me winning this award, other women in CAT will push themselves to be major characters instead of minor sideline players because of intimidation. They should push for the recognition they deserve.”