It has been nearly three weeks since the STEM AP “Ask Me Anything” Event. Nevertheless, I can’t stop thinking about what happened.
First of all, it was a great success. After the last words were said and contact information was exchanged, I left the event filling full. No, it wasn’t the pizza. I was full of happiness. Positivity. Fulfillment. And most importantly, an incomparable feeling of having done something that benefited others. When I looked around the room, I did not see 70-80+ strangers. I saw my peers, members of the STEM Ambassadors Program (STEM AP), and a handful of attendees that were STEM professionals and students from all over campus and various industries.
This event was essentially a celebration of my network that I have accumulated over the course of my undergraduate career. Each attendee played a salient role in both my journey and this event. They all brought something different to showcase and share. As a result, members of STEM AP were exposed to a wide variety of people from the UMass community and beyond.
For the most part, finding STEM attendees to speak at the event was surprisingly not a difficult task. Everyone that I spoke to was extremely enthusiastic and happy to participate. Additionally, something that was amazing to see in real-time was how quickly the word spread. After inviting the first round of people, they ended up sharing the event with their peers. And their peers did the same. Soon enough, my event was listed on the UMass IT website and posted on UMass’ social media accounts (Twitter & Facebook). From there, everything just took off. I had so much support from so many people. Some of which I did not know before the event. Even now, I am so grateful for their willingness to help me carry out the event.
Ultimately, in lieu of waiting to cross paths by chance, this event fostered interactions in a friendly and low-pressure space that galvanized genuine interest in computing careers, studies, and endeavors.
The various discussions that took place sparked a fire in several of the STEM AP students. Subsequently, I put out a Google Form questionnaire and asked my STEM AP peers to send me their feedback and constructive criticism. As the responses rolled in, I found myself feeling full all over again. Here’s what some of the students said:
This was a very helpful workshop for me personally because I surely do not know anything about engineering, informatics and IT and this was a great way to learn about it, especially from people who are already in the field. I also enjoyed hearing from students and how they got to their particular major. I think if speakers came in and showcased what they have worked on or are working on would really inspire students even more. It’s nice to hear about what others do, but I think it’ll be better to actually see it because I didn’t necessarily understand what people were saying all the time.
It made me think about a career I hadn’t had exposure to earlier. Given that my mind is already fixed on a medical school path it was interesting to consider that I may have chosen a tech/data based career if I had been exposed earlier. I think this workshop would great to implement for the middle school mentoring kids; Have presenters pitch why their work is so cool and have the middle schoolers interact with them. If I had this option accessible in middle school it would be amazing! Thank you so much for this event! It was highly organized and I appreciated that.
Honestly this event was the first time I met a woman who was in the cyber-security field. It was surreal to see another person who was like me succeeding in a field that I thought was only white guys. It was really inspiring to say the least. Overall it was amazing, and I think it impacted non-tech oriented students in STEM AP just as much as the tech oriented students. Edwood did a fantastic job!
This event manifested from the fact that STEM AP needed more computing events. It was also produced with my own experiences in computing in mind. In my last post, I asked STEM AP to tell me what they wanted to see and who they wanted at the event. This allowed me to pivot efficiently to serve them the best way that I could. Based on the responses, there’s definitely some room to grow for future iterations.
Additionally, hearing back from my peers affirmed the fact that the “Ask Me Anything” format was a great way to introduce people to computing and its various avenues. In the future, I definitely see this type of event becoming something that other students can use to bring attention to their areas of interest.
In my last post, I said:
And when it happens [the STEM AP “Ask Me Anything” Event], I hope the event sparks a flame that encourages my peers to investigate their options in the context of computing and beyond.
In the light of that, I definitely think that was achieved. Fortunately, things do not end here. This was just the start. I hope to keep doing things like this even after I graduate and become a STEM professional.
Subsequently, I wholeheartedly intend to continue being a STEM Ambassador by ensuring that my younger STEM peers are aware of pathways and opportunities that they can take advantage of. By leaving the door open so that others can pass through, I hope to impact the perception of what computing is and what it looks like in STEM careers.