College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Alumna Dr. Syria Wesley will return to the La Plata Campus to offer the keynote speech at the college’s annual Women in STEM Conference May 3. The Maurice McDonough High School graduate credits her time at CSM with transforming her life and putting her on a STEM career path to become a pharmacist with a doctorate degree.
“I come from a family where you graduated from high school and you basically went to work for the government or worked at the post office and that’s just what you did,” Wesley told ABC/WJLA Channel 7 Education Reporter Kellye Lynn in a recent interview. “I am the first person in my family to ever graduate from college, let alone achieve my doctorate degree.”
Wesley was interviewed as part of ABC’s coverage of CSM being awarded a nearly $1 million by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program. A recipient of an earlier NSF S-STEM grant, Wesley was able to attend CSM full time in 2012 and successfully transfer to Notre Dame of University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy. Wesley’s interview with ABC/WJLA Channel 7 has not yet aired.
In a December 18, 2018 Forbes magazine article on how WEX, Inc. is keeping women in STEM careers, WEX, Inc. Chief Corporate Development Office Nicola Morris told contributing writer Jill Griffin that more girls need to be exposed to STEM careers at a younger age.
“It’s no surprise that women are underrepresented in Nicola’s sector since few American women are graduating from college with STEM degrees,” Griffin wrote. “Just 35 percent of bachelor’s degrees in STEM are held by women, [according to the Brookings Institution] and for women of color, the percentage is even more minuscule (less than 5 percent of black women, Latinas and Asian women graduate with a bachelor’s in a STEM field). Nicola says that’s because the educational bias starts early, lowering girls’ aspirations for science and engineering careers.”
The annual CSM Women in STEM conference encourages young girls to not limit their education or career options. “It is very important to share with young women all of the opportunities available to them and that there is nothing a young women can’t do when she puts her mind to it,” said conference planner and CSM Professor Sandra Poinsett. “STEM careers are fun, fulfilling and the world needs more women in STEM careers and becoming tomorrow’s problem solvers.”
“When I was awarded the S-STEM scholarship from 2012-2014, I was able to attend college full time and graduate with honors,” Wesley explained. “I was able to utilize so many resources thanks to CSM and that grant. We had tutors; networking; we went to [Naval Air Station] Pax River; anything you needed to excel, CSM and the NSF scholarship provided.
“There is a support system at CSM that was so beneficial and makes us close-knit here,” Wesley continued. “That is the benefit of attending a community college. And I can’t wait to come back and encourage young girls to chase STEM careers.”
Poinsett also pointed out that many young girls do not realize that STEM careers go beyond the typical science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers they may envision.
“STEM careers also include biological sciences, computer information systems, computer science, engineering, gaming, information services technology, information systems, cybersecurity and physical sciences,” she said. “And STEM jobs constitute some of the highest paying jobs in American and worldwide.”
The conference presenters are professional women in various stages of their careers who work in a STEM profession. The event features workshops, presentations and discussions designed to inform young women about STEM-related careers, including the keynote address by Wesley. Free lunch will be served.
“If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” Wesley said. “And all of your dreams can come true. If I had never given STEM a second look, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I absolutely love my job.”
The May 3 event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the CSM La Plata Campus, Center for Building and Industry (BI Building) Room 113, 8730 Mitchell Road in La Plata. The conference is open to young women ages 13 and older as well as high school math teachers and parents. Please RSVP and register at http://stem.csmd.edu/events_WAMinfo.html. For additional information, contact Poinsett at 301-934-7808 or by email email@example.com or CSM Math Division Chair Dr. Stephanie MsCaslin 301-934-7803.
CSM Women in STEM. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. May 3. College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, Center for Building and Industry (BI Building), Room 113, 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata. This one-day event features workshops, presentations and discussions designed to inform young women STEM-related careers. Open to young women 13 and older as well as high school math teachers and parents. Free. 301-934-7808, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please RSVP and register at http://stem.csmd.edu/events_WAMinfo.html.