Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative

Advancing the Agenda for Gender Equality

KGSC Annual Conference 2012

The Center for Gifted Studies, the Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative, and Western Kentucky University's SKyTeach Program partnered to offer educators, parents, business and community leaders, and female students opportunities this fall to come together and explore the issues surrounding women in STEM. The three organizations hosted the Fourth Annual Kentucky Girls Collaborative Conference "Collaboration: The Key to Successful Programming for Girls in STEM" on October 12, 2012, at the National Corvette Museum and a Girls STEM Day on October 13, 2012, in WKU's Snell Hall.

Educators, counselors, business and community leaders, parents and girls explored up-and-coming career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and learned proactive steps to help girls overcome roadblocks to their success in these fields.

The Collaborative conference featured Keynote speaker Dr. Claudia Rawn, University of Tennessee Material Science and Engineering faculty member and senior research and development staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics for the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; panels featuring women in STEM fields sharing their strategies for success and educators discussing Kentucky programs that work.

Dr. Claudia Rawn, Faculty, University of Tennessee, Material Science & Engineering, and Oakridge National Laboratory, Oakridge, TN, our keynote speaker, addressed the need for why women should major in STEM and why the STEM fields need more women.  Mr. Mark McElory, Chief Strategy Officer, “Connected Nation”, gave an overview of how students can prepare for the world of work.  Mr. Ron Crouch, Director, Research & Statistics, Kentucky Education & Workforce Development Cabinet provided the audience with the job outlook for STEM graduates in Kentucky.   Panelists included Dr. Javiette Samuel, Kentucky State University, Dr. Christa Jackson, University of Kentucky, and Dr. Doris Clark-Saar, Murray State University speaking on “STEM Opportunities for Girls of Underrepresented Groups”.  For the girls attending the conference we had four outstanding women, Ms. Beth Tyrie, Western Kentucky University (WKU) graduate student, Ms. Hannah Pennington, Gatton Academy Student,  Dr. Nancy Rice, Biology Professor, WKU, and Marcy Stankiewicz, engineer from American Synthetic Rubber Company share their strategies for success. For the educators in attendance, we highlighted three Kentucky Programs that work – Project GEMS with Jennifer Smith, Project Lead the Way, with Dr. Mike Crowhurst, and Kentucky Science Center with Hannah Clore. Ms. Raye McIntyre, Kentucky Department of Education, wrapped up the conference by presenting on the new Kentucky Science Standards that are being implemented in high schools across the state.    

Exhibitors from General Motors, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, WKU Gifted Studies, Innovate KY, Mathnasium, and UK AquaBots were available to meet with conference attendees.  

The Saturday following the conference, about 75 girls in grades five though eight delved farther into future STEM careers during the Girls STEM Day designed by SKyTeach, a WKU program funded by National Math and Science Initiative aimed at recruiting, preparing, supporting and providing outreach to science and mathematics teachers. The afternoon program featured sessions during which participants performed chemistry lab experiments, conquered engineering challenges, used applied mathematics to problem solve, explored glacier science with geoscience graduate students, and more. STEM professionals also spoke with students during the sessions about how the activities mirror their professional work.

SKyTeach Master Teacher Melissa Rudloff said this kind of programming is particularly important for girls in middle grades, who tend to lose interest in STEM fields even if they enjoyed them in elementary school. "We're hoping that by gearing this learning experience toward middle grade girls they can see how relevant and how dynamic a career in a STEM discipline can be," she said. "This way, they can make some important choices as they approach high school to stay in advanced science and mathematics classes and continue to push themselves with opportunities outside of school that will relate to developing futures as STEM professionals."

Mandy Simpson
Coordinator of Communications and Technology The Center for Gifted Studies Western Kentucky University