Under the Influence (of STEM).
Last week, I traveled back to my alma mater – Michigan Technological University (MTU). I was honored to spend time with college friends and see the ever expanding campus. I was able to visit some favorite watering holes, kayak on Lake Superior, and even get in a 10-mile training run along the Portage Canal with my beloved college roommate. In addition, I helped to raise funds for a cause near and dear to my heart – a scholarship for female students.
While traveling, I also caught up on some reading and came across an article from another Michigan college – Michigan State University. The article was titled ‘MSU’s College Of Engineering Hits Milestone With Female Students’*. It celebrated the fact that for the first time ever, MSU’s College of Engineering had more than 1,000 female students – about 20% of the students. I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by this given that overall at MSU, 50% of students are female. But it is progress and it is great that the Dean of MSU’s College of Engineering, Leo Kempel, is paying attention to the metric and working to increase it! As a side note, MTU is ahead of MSU on the percent of female student front. My alma mater has a female population of 26% overall and within the College of Engineering, 23% of the students are female.
Another part of the article that caught my attention was a quote from one of the College of Engineering’s incoming female students. She talked about her inspiration for pursuing Chemical Engineering – a traditionally male dominated career. She said: "My high school teacher, Mr. Bruso, is actually very passionate about chemistry and extremely smart, so he kind of influenced me to like chemistry and enjoy problem solving”. I loved this. Many of the role models in our videos had similar stories of being inspired to pursue tough STEM pathways because of a teacher or parent.
I wonder if educators and parents fully realize the power they have in positively influencing students to pursue STEM careers? And what about those young people that are NOT lucky enough to have such influences? These were big motivators for me to join forces with my business partners to start Couragion – to give educators and parents access to better tools for helping their kids explore careers. And more importantly, to expand kids’ access to role models beyond their limited circle of family and friends. I hope someday to see articles in which students cite Couragion as a major influence in their decision to pursue a STEM degree or career. Then I will know we have truly made a difference with our company!