These events included speaker presentations, illuminating conversations, and a group activity using Jamboard, a digital whiteboard that allows for collaboration in real time. Keep reading to check out the Jamboards and learn about our speakers: Plant Biologist Dr. Beronda L. Montgomery, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineer Kate Gunderson, and Biomedical Engineer Dr. Korie Grayson.
#Renew with Dr. Beronda L. Montgomery -11/3/21
Our first event of the series, a collaboration with Pioneer Valley Women in STEM, featured Dr. Beronda L. Montgomery, a writer, researcher, and scholar. Maeliz Colon, a recent graduate of UMASS Amherst with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, interviewed Dr. Montgomery on topics related to her book Lessons From Plants, an exploration of how plant behavior and adaptation offer valuable insights for human thriving. When asked, “What lessons can we learn from plants about the benefits of diversity of people, thoughts, and experiences?”, Dr. Montgomery responded,
“If you look at plants in a natural context, you rarely find a single kind of plant growing in a natural ecosystem. Plants are in communities. And they’re in those communities because they’re with other organisms that grow well together and/or often they’re in active relationships. There are lots of examples of plants that you always find growing together in nature, or there are indigenous farming practices where they grow different types of plants together.
A common indigenous farming practice is known as “the three sisters” where they grow corn, bean, and squash together, and they do that because those plants have a relationship. Plants grow better in diverse communities… If other organisms are growing in diverse communities, I don’t understand why we think that somehow we would be immune from also being enriched by diversity of all types… all kinds of diversity is critical if we want to really be able to enrich our community by seeing what our unique contributions are.”
Curious about how corn, bean, and squash plants work together as three sisters? Click here!
#Relaunch with Kate Gunderson- 11/17/21
Kate Gunderson, a mechanical and aerospace engineer who will soon be attending flight school, joined us for our second event in the series. The event began with Kate’s presentation, “How I Launched My Dream Career,” during which she spoke about her career trajectory, from leaving her small town in North Dakota for college in Rochester, NY to scoring her dream job at NASA.
Following the presentation, SWE HQ’s Collegiate Coordinator Abby Watson spoke with Kate to dive deeper into her engineering education, work experience, and the importance of representation in STEM. When asked about her social media presence on various platforms including Instagram and TikTok, Kate explained,
“The whole reason I started it was because I wanted to inspire and empower young women to go into engineering and other STEM fields. Growing up, I did not know what engineers did. Even when I got to college I didn’t really know what engineers did. I didn’t know what incredible opportunities were available to me because I thought it was just chemical engineering, electrical engineering… I didn’t know there were people who got to fly on airplanes or did flight test engineering, or all these different career fields because I just didn’t know. I didn’t even know to look them up! So that’s kind of why I did it.”
While representing aerospace and flight test engineering on social media, Kate wants young people interested in STEM to know that hard work is more important than being smart. What does she mean by that? Find out here!
#Redefine with Dr. Korie Grayson – 12/8/21
Biomedical Engineer and STEM Diversity advocate Dr. Korie Grayson kicked off the final event in the series by telling us about her background and taking us through a timeline of her education, from being encouraged to enroll in AP classes in high school to receiving a full ride scholarship to Norfolk State University, a historically black university where she met Black PhD holders for the first time. A first-generation college student, she earned her chemistry degree along with ten other Black students. Dr. Korie spoke to the power of this community, stating “These were my study partners. These were my tutors. These were my friends.”
After working retail for the next couple of years, Dr. Korie landed a job at a biomedical device company, which led her to pursue her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. Maeliz Colon joined us once again to speak with Dr. Korie. When asked how students can stand out during the college application process, Dr. Korie said,
“A lot of that comes through storytelling and being able to tell a great story about your experiences. I usually tell people to start with an initial experience that kind of got you excited about going to college, or going to grad school, or going into the field, and go from there. So saying ‘I wanted to be a scientist all my life’… don’t ever start an essay like that. Start off with a moment or a quote, something specific that you can draw upon, but specifically I like talking about individual experiences because that’s what makes you stand out. What did you do to get to this point?”
What was Dr. Korie’s moment? Click to find out!
Each event closed with a Jamboard activity, sparking discussion on topics such as dream jobs and how women can support one another in STEM. Check out a few highlights below:
Thank you to the Northrop Grumman Foundation for funding #Renew. #Relaunch. #Reimagine. and enabling SWE to provide these learning and networking opportunities. For more information, including speaker bios, visit SWE Networking Events for STEM Students.
And if you’re a community college student or faculty member, consider joining the new SWE Community Colleges Affinity Group! Members of the group promote and connect community college women in engineering, engineering technologies, and related STEM fields within SWE and beyond. Please reach out to co-lead Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the Community Colleges AG.