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Madison Saunders smiling and sitting in a golf cart.
Madison “MJ” Saunders enjoyed her first Aggie football game as a guest of her Posse mentors. Her experience included sitting in a private box and networking with members of the Board of Regents. | Image: Courtesy of Madison Saunders

Madison “MJ” Saunders, a sophomore student in the Wm Michael Barnes ’64 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, came to Texas A&M University from Georgia with a Posse Scholarship, and has since made an impression, even claiming a spot in the Zachry Leadership Program (ZLP).

The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains individuals with extraordinary leadership potential and a keen attention to diversity. Posse Scholars receive full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse's partner colleges and universities. Similarly, ZLP is a scholarship that also aims to help students realize the power of collaboration and diverse thoughts, while also learning to become more selfless.

“I never visited (Texas) A&M prior to my NSC (New Student Conference),” Saunders said. “I actually wasn’t introduced to A&M until I was nominated for the Posse Scholarship, and as I was going through my application/interview process, I knew I wanted to attend the university.”

As a Posse Scholar, Saunders was able to bond with others in the program and mentors from Texas A&M before arriving. Growing attached to the familial atmosphere there, Saunders said that Texas A&M was not something she could pass up, and she found her voice as a woman engineer to be even more profound.

“Being a woman, and particularly an African American woman, in engineering is challenging. However, I wouldn’t change it for anything strictly because of how it’s impacted my confidence,” Saunders said. “Looking back on my freshman year, I believe I am a completely different person from who I am today.”

Saunders said that she has been able to find her confidence and is grateful that she has been able to grow, which she believes every woman in engineering should be able to do. Also, her acceptance into ZLP meant a lot to her as well and she fondly remembers the experience.

“At that moment, I felt so validated,” Saunders said. “I know I can struggle with my confidence in myself, and I’m getting better, but little and especially major things like this really remind me to continue to believe in myself.”

Outside of these engineering programs, Saunders advocates for Black women in engineering. Saunders said that striving for this diversity is important because it takes a lot to be “the only one” in the room.

“It can be so draining mentally to the point where you can begin to question yourself and your abilities — even when you are one of the best at what you do,” Saunders said.

Through programs like ZLP and Posse, she credits the people she has met in both to her success, getting the chance to be the best person she can be. Ultimately, between the two scholarship programs and commitments in several other organizations, Saunders realizes the importance of pushing herself.

“It will be hard to see, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Saunders said. “You just have to be willing to run toward it.”