Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 10:53am

Stacy Cobb takes the Commencement stage tomorrow and steps into UGA history as she adds a chapter to her own wonderful story:

The first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in statistics at the University of Georgia, Stacy Cobb has turned a passion for public health into a career as a biostatistician.

Along the way, Cobb has discovered an expansive capacity for learning, the importance of role models and the crucial role that confidence plays in the formula for academic success.

She returns to the UGA campus Friday for Commencement ceremonies to receive the doctorate she earned in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

As an undergraduate at Savannah State University, Cobb was among one of the first cohorts of STEM programs for minorities.

"They really pushed us to stay in the science realm," said Cobb, who said she's loved math since her formative school years but didn't always have the confidence necessary to succeed in a very challenging discipline.

Though gaps remain, Cobb's success shows that developing the interest of young women and minorities in science and technology fields results from a combination of effective programs that encourage underrepresented groups in STEM fields, as well as the enduring power of societal cues and role models.

"Exposure and a more welcoming environment for women and people of color will help. The recent film 'Hidden Figures' is a great example. I didn't grow up knowing that women like that even existed," Cobb said. "If the interest is sparked then more people will migrate towards the area."

A fantastic and inspiring young woman who, in her determination to succeed discovered her passion. We can only hope Dr. Cobb's story travels far and wide to touch the many young girls who need to know about her and to understand they, too, can and should pursue their dreams.