Group builds network in underrepresented fields
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 19:09
A new group at UNO is building a network and support system for women in the underrepresented areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Women in STEM (WiSTEM) held their first event Friday, Sept. 7. The group held a meet-and-greet featuring academic departments and faculty, as well as groups from the Omaha area, like Gallup, Union Pacific and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“We’re focusing on STEM areas because it’s very underrepresented and with women especially,” said Rachael Burns, WiSTEM president and biology graduate student.
Many STEM classes at UNO are filled with mostly men.
“There’s many times when there won’t be a single other girl in class,” Burns said. “We wanted to have something there so they could get to know other women in their fields.”
WiSTEM will not only connect women in STEM studies with their peers but also with professors and professionals in the Omaha community.
“We want to introduce them to different professionals so they can get hooked up with internships as well as job opportunities,” Burns said.
While the group is designed as a network for women, it’s open to men, too. The group will also target high school students.
“We want to have these girls come from high school and have a set goal,” Burns said. “We want to help them get through this goal so they can go on to the next step and have a job. We want that link from high school to career so they can actually visualize it.”
In the future, WiSTEM will work with high schools. They will work to tell high school girls what’s going on at UNO with organizations and opportunities they can become involved in. In addition to talking to students, Burns hopes to be able to help out with STEM-related high school camps and workshops.
UNO has many opportunities for STEM students that people aren’t aware of, Burns said.
Burns cited UNO groups who have received scholarships for students to attend NASA camps. She also mentioned activities and groups at the Peter Kiewit Institute related to robotics.
Another main part of WiSTEM will involve connecting students with faculty to find internships and potential job opportunities.
“We want to hook these students up with professors who have different research projects going on,” Burns said. “We want to link them so maybe they can get a publication under their belt.”
WiSTEM will be more than an academic organization. It also provides students with an opportunity to connect with their peers who have similar interests.
“You can keep each other accountable and make friends, too,” Burns said.
In starting WiSTEM, Burns saw a lot of support from the community. Representatives from different STEM fields on campus, like biology, chemistry and the Peter Kiewit Institute, will take part in the group.
“It was overwhelming how many people wanted to support the group,” Burns said.