Nadia Spencer - A Confidence Challenge

By Liesl Folks, PhD, MBA and Nancy Schiller, MS

female student studying.


A PhD civil engineering student contemplates quitting the degree program as her confidence is shaken while working as a TA for a male professor who has created a hostile work environment.

The case can be used to help develop career skills that may be useful to achieving long-term success, such as:

  • Managing conflict / Respectful confrontations
  • Cultivating resilience in the face of adversity
  • Working smarter, not harder
  • Understanding the Intersection of Gender & Race (Diversity)
  • Managing workplace Harassment & Hostile Work environments
  • Overcoming Stereotype threat / Impostor Syndrome
  • Taking Legal Actions/Collecting Evidence/Data.


Upon completion of this case, students will be able to:

  • Understand particular risks that are present for women of color in STEM workplaces
  • Recognize and describe workplace harassment / hostile workplaces
  • Formulate a strategic plan for action
  • Determine what the next steps should be for the protagonist