RIT/NTID Diversity Spotlight

Full name of the subject of the spotlight.

[ID: RIT National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Women’s History Month Spotlight. Background is a gradient of grey to purple. Baby blue triangular vectors are placed on the image. Pictured in a purple circle is Mechelle Cureaux, a Black woman smiling with glasses, a white collar shirt, a red, orange and red head wrap with locs exposed on top. Quoted below her is “Don’t let someone change who you are at heart. Let people transform you into a better person, but never let them dim your shine. - Mechelle Cureaux ‘22, Chemistry MS.” Multiple white circles of different opacities are found on the photo's bottom border.]

Mechelle Cureaux ‘22


Chemistry MS


If you could describe being a woman in one word, what would it be? 
Just one word? Let me think… phenomenal!

At the same time… humble. 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Ooh, I would say it’s a month to recognize women, especially those who accomplish their dreams—really, any woman who makes a change in this world. Know their names.

Name a woman or heroine who inspires you and why?
Just one woman? You sure? 

If you have more, sure—go for it!
I would say Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

Michelle because she’s a powerful woman. She isn’t just Barack Obama’s “wife” – she developed her own role as a First Lady. She’s a trailblazer. She went to law school, had two daughters and she’s successful. They were the first Black couple in the White House! She wrote a book that I’m looking forward to reading, too.

Oprah Winfrey went through so much to get where she is as a young woman, but she persevered.

Oh! I want to add Maya Angelou too. Her poems are inspiring. That’s where I got the term “phenomenal woman” from. As a Black woman in America, she struggled, but still never gave up and still rose from her issues.

What assumptions about women would you like to see change?
I think Black Deaf women are overlooked and I’d like for them to pop up and have their shine too. Especially within mentorship in America. It’s rare to see us representing those who support the next generation of Black women leaders in the STEM fields.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I have three. First, I went to a conference in Seattle, Washington—American Academy of Forensic Science in Seattle in February. I really want to work in the forensic science field.  There are barriers to get into the forensic sciences field. While there, I was very assertive and asked a lot of questions. I wanted them to see that me, a deaf Black woman, has potential to do what they do. I had a lot of people come up to me. A man from Germany approached me, interviewed me, which can be viewed here, and expressed interest in learning sign language and shared her desire of having more Deaf female scientists in the forensic science field. 

Secondly, I went to ABRCMS (Annual Biomedical Research Conference For Minority Students). I was finally on a panel, and I was the first deaf person they had on a panel. It was based on disabled people’s experiences in academic fields and how they push through. I shared advice with them, I recruited deaf students and provided networking opportunities for them. I feel like that was a successful moment for me. It’s important to have access… a lot of people talk about inclusiveness, but where’s the action? Stand up for it and include me too. That way, I can include future generations behind me.

Third, I actually submitted my application for a chemistry Ph.D. program right before its deadline and got into the University of Maryland. They responded back one week later!

What can our community do to better support women?
Give them a RAISE! We are highly valuable and you can’t meet us where we are? Give us a raise! Add more time off. We bear babies and we need more time to take care of them.
What advice would you give your younger self?

I would say don’t stay stuck. Just keep going forward. Keep making better choices, if it doesn’t work out, change the situation. Like Maya Angelou said, don’t like it? Change it.

And always, always, always ask questions.

How has RIT/NTID aided you in your professional or academic journey?
Yes! As you know, NTID is a deaf institute and it’s my first deaf academic program. I grew up in a mainstream environment where I didn’t have enough information on how to get accessibility and how to do great in academic projects. NTID taught me that.

There are better mentors here, advisors who help you through what needs to get done. I’ve learned how to approach different situations and gain knowledge on things I wouldn’t have known about. Also, faculty and staff know how to engage with deaf students – it’s a different experience here at RIT/NTID. They always make sure I have full access to information, no matter what is going on.

What advice would you give to young women who want to be in your shoes someday?
One, always speak up. Don’t let someone change who you are at heart. Let people transform you into a better person, but never let them dim your shine. Two, always believe in yourself and if someone is negative about your process, just do better and prove them wrong.

Share a fun fact about yourself.
I helped with 13 autopsies where I assisted on opening a body and sewing it when the autopsy was complete. I even held a brain. I wasn’t grossed out or anything, but vision like mine is very important because you can overlook things. It was one of my favorite parts of my internship in New Orleans, LA at a coroner’s office. I can’t wait to get back into forensic science!