More than 500 sixth-grade girls from 19 area schools came to UVa-Wise Sept. 18 to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health at the college’s second annual Girls in STEM-H Day.
Several UVa-Wise faculty members and professionals from the surrounding community joined 44 chaperones and 103 UVa-Wise student volunteers to present sessions on STEM-H-related career choices.
Professors Madelynn Shell and Alexandria Reynolds started the event on campus more than a year ago. After College Chancellor Donna Henry invited them to a STEM event in Abingdon, Va., Shell and Reynolds were interested in doing a similar event here in Wise after the program there was looking to expand.
Shell knew the use of the UVa-Wise faculty members would make the event successful.
This year’s Girls Day included 26 workshops led by 12 UVa-Wise faculty members and several professionals from the surrounding community and region…
The event is a fun way to get young girls interested in careers in the STEM-H field and to encourage them to start thinking about college. It is important at a young age for the girls to be exposed to these careers because they are often male dominated.
Statistics show that women are far less likely than men to major in these areas. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, only 29 percent of women make up the science and engineering workforce.
Each class that came to the STEM-H day visited three different workshops during their time on campus. Some of the different workshops included The Virtual Reality Experience, Composition: Making Music with Math, Physician Residency and Strawberry DNA Extraction.
“We have a couple of strategies for recruiting,” Shell said about recruiting presenters for the sessions. “We contact all of the faculty and ask if anyone is interested in participating and one of the first things we do is a brainstorming session at the beginning to see if anyone knows anyone in the community who might be interested.”
Daniel Ray in Computer Science oversees the workshops for the Girls’ Day in STEM-H.
“Dream, reach high, never give up on your dreams and keep working hard in your studies,” Henry told the 519 girls attending Girls in STEM-H Day. “Keep all of your doors open so that you can know what you want to do.”
Kelsey Johnson, an astrophysicist from the University of Virginia, was the keynote speaker for the event. She used her own life as a reminder to the girls that no matter what their circumstances are in life, they can do big things.
Johnson began her speech by having the girls draw a picture of a scientist. When she asked the girls what their first picture looked like, she asked the crowd of young girls if they drew a picture of a male scientist.
Next, she asked the girls to draw another picture, but this time, it was to draw themselves as scientists. It was a reminder for them to see themselves as scientists and to remember they can be anything they want to be when they grow up.
Johnson gave advice to the young girls to find friends who help them to embrace their true selves and to never fight against whoever that might be.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Little sisters, when one of us succeeds, all of us succeed and we have to help each other,” Johnson said.
She once again reminded the girls to surround themselves with other girls who will encourage them and uplift them.
Planning by the 20-member faculty/staff Girls’ Day in STEM-H committee has already begun for next year’s Girls’ Day in STEM-H.