i-Trek Founder, Niaja Farve
Niaja Farve has been working with her all volunteer team, comprised of administrative and marketing professionals, writers and mentors since June of 2013. The group, which has come a long way since their modest beginnings, recently began supporting the first collective of i-Trek mentees, “trekkers,” in their ambitious research project demonstrating the early success of Niaja’s vision. Although she recognizes i-Trek still has some distance in meeting its funding goals, for Niaja, the success of i-Trek is profoundly personal. Her approach to leadership is guided by a philosophy which developed from the significant observations made in her undergraduate and graduate education. These observations have impacted not only her career choices, but have driven her passion for the very mission of i-Trek.
Originally from the small town of Gaithersburg, MD, Niaja began her journey toward engineering with a love of music. She had hoped in high school to take her high aptitude in mathematics and her passion for melodies and become an audio engineer. It was Desiree Farve, i-Trek’s CFO and Niaja’s mother, who suggested she broaden her focus and study electrical engineering. Niaja has not regretted this decision, and believes her mother is her primary source of inspiration. Growing up with just the two of them, Niaja credits Desiree with what she believes is one of her most important inherited traits: to persevere through life’s obstacles.
Niaja’s accomplishments as an undergraduate at Morgan State University lead her to MIT’s graduate program in Electrical Engineering. MIT’s rich offerings tempted her to continue beyond her master’s; she now enjoys her daily research in the Media Lab as a PhD student. In addition to creating the blueprint for i-Trek’s model, Niaja works tirelessly on eye tracking, or using an individual’s eye movements to monitor thought patterns. With the hope of inventing a mobile platform for health technology, Niaja is designing a way to seamlessly monitor our eating and drinking habits. Through her lab work, she hopes one day we will utilize popular technology like smart phones and make them more advantageous to our health. Niaja fervently believes in applying her education to the betterment of the community.
As the leader of a bourgeoning non-profit organization, Niaja believes each member of the team is a fellow founder. Her philosophy of management is egalitarian and inclusive, not unlike her hopes for i-Trek’s impact on its students. Those selected for the program will come to an agreement with their mentor on which project will be chosen. For success in the program, the participants will have to push themselves to work together as effectively as they push themselves to complete each required piece alone. Niaja has high hopes that i-Trek will inspire more students from under-served and underrepresented backgrounds to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM fields can offer wonderful opportunities even outside of the classroom, just as engineering opened up the world to Niaja.
As recipient of the prestigious scholarship with Army Corps of Engineering, Niaja worked in Germany where she assisted in project management. Every weekend for an entire summer, she traveled to a different country in Europe. After visiting an variety of places like Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Prague, Niaja was given a more worldly perspective that has set her apart from the majority of her peers.
In addition to her many European excursions, being introduced to MIT’s extremely well-funded atmosphere was eye-opening. She believes the main difference between students at MIT and students attending institutions with less funding is that MIT can afford to provide the hands-on experiences that encourage success. It is because of this realization that i-Trek’s mission is to assist in addressing the inequality. The program hopes to give the necessary guidance while encouraging the independence Niaja knows is crucial to success in any field.
As an engineer, CEO, inventor, and journeywoman, Niaja’s thirst for learning mirrors her drive, passion and vision for a career that makes a serious impact on the under-served and underrepresented communities in the STEM fields. She thrives professionally on the opportunity to guide and inspire those who share her enthusiasm for the boundless possibilities of education and philanthropy.