How Does Travel And STEM Connect?

"Science is not a boy's game, it's not a girl's game. It's everyone's game.

It's about where we are and where we're going."

—Nichelle Nichols

Like traveling, STEM is a significant part of my identity. When you look through periodicals or attend conferences (domestically and worldwide), have you noticed the number of females in the STEM field? Probably not that many! Let's add an extra variable. How many are black females? Maybe 2-3, if you are lucky!

I have attended dozens of conferences and have always felt like the odd man (in this case-- woman) out. I am often the person "bringing the color" to the room. For instance, on my first day of a training in Colorado, I immediately began counting the number of colored people. One...two...yup, THREE. Just three: a Mexican male, an Instructor, and myself. I wanted to give the Instructor a high five for female empowerment and embrace the fact that we were women of color, Caribbean and in STEM. But of course, that would have brought more attention to the fact that we already stood out. There is nothing wrong with a low key "YAAAASSS."

The black females in the STEM field are often applauded for their accomplishments. Not to downplay their accomplishments by any means (growing up, I was put on this same pedestal), but when will we see black women working in labs or leading science departments as the norm - not the anomaly? Exposure to these “anomalies”, by traveling, is important! This needs to become the norm!

My particular interest in breaking barriers for black females in STEM is rooted in personal experiences. As an African American female originally pursuing a STEM career (a doctor), I later discovered my passion for mentoring others to achieve this goal. In college, many minorities were inadequately prepared for STEM classes, particularly at Ivy League institutions. As a result, many peers who looked like me were dropping out! However, it was not until conducting a research project that I discovered the existence of a "leaky pipeline", where black females showed the greatest interest in STEM, but ended up the least likely to pursue a STEM career. Going to STEM events and seeing very few role models resembling my students led me to become passionate about inspiring black females to be the new face of STEM diversity.

Empowering black females through beyond-the-classroom STEM experiences has always been a passion of mine.

As an educator, I engage my students in as many STEM experiences as possible by providing hands-on activities, taking my students on trips/conferences and hosting guest speakers. Now, as an assistant principal, I hope to make that impact on a larger scale by working to ensure that my students are as enthusiastic and nerdy about STEM as I am. (Let me save you from one of my many, many corny jokes...for now).

What are your thoughts about the connection between STEM and travel?

Former students in my introductory Biomedical class.


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