Career Exploration Event Encourages Girls to Consider Science, Math Fields

LA PLATA, Md. (November, 16, 2010)—More than 50 girls attending the College of Southern Maryland’s Women + Math = Infinite Options Conference Oct. 16 had the opportunity to see what exciting careers and futures they can have-with studies in mathematics.

The event, in its sixth year, brought together girls between the ages of 13 and 21 and professional women with careers which draw heavily on math.

“The idea is to encourage middle, high school and college students to take as many math classes as they can in order to be academically prepared when exciting opportunities arise,” said CSM Mathematics Professor Sandra Poinsett event organizer along with Assistant Professor Stephanie McCaslin, and adjunct faculty Barbara Peck and Holli Chichester.

“About seven years ago I was teaching a calculus class of 30 and saw only two ladies in the class--I thought, ‘this isn’t right,’” said Poinsett. “Through this program, each year young women are encouraged to come in and to explore a variety of career options.”

One of the toughest hurdles to overcome for girls in pursuing a field involving math is confidence, according to CSM Mathematics Professor Susan Strickland. “Confidence is a huge indicator of success and persistence,” Strickland told women gathered for the Parent-Teacher Workshop. “Women come to math with a blend of high aspiration and low confidence.”

Strickland’s workshop presented some of the constructive ways to encourage girls to pursue science and math fields, including letting students know that their academic abilities are expandable--not fixed, encouraging girls to take risks and to participate in extra-curricular activities, and provide female role models and mentors.

A role model and model of persistence for attendees was presenter and panelist Dr. Njema Frazier, acting director of the International Programs Management Division at the National Nuclear Security Administration, U. S. Department of Energy. With a good support structure at home, Frazier said that she always liked math, but really enjoyed the challenge of physics. Her parents enrolled her in college prep programs and encouraged her to accept that the work would be difficult and not to give up. In college, the material and concepts became more difficult, but as she progressed, they were also more interesting, she said.

“I enjoyed the challenge. I went into physics and nuclear physics because I knew that it would be challenging,” she said. “And, I took pride in mastering the material.”

Participants also heard the panel of professional women describe their varied paths to success and how they have balanced their home life and careers.

NASA Deputy Director of the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate Felicia Jones told participants that her specialty in astrophysics has given her flexibility and job advancement opportunities while raising her family. Because she had a high-demand skill, she was able to create a work schedule that allowed her to be home when her children got home from school, she said.

Throughout the day, participants had opportunities to interact with women with careers in health science, cryptology, astrophysics, software engineering, computer science, financial services, architecture, physics, civil engineering, meteorology, cyber security, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and chiropractic.

Hailey Allen, 16, a junior at Lackey High School, attended the event to explore engineering careers. She participated in a workshop with Frazier on physics, Jones on astrophysics and Ronla Henry, deputy program manager of the Advance Weather Interactive Processing System at the National Weather Service, on meteorology.

For information on the Youth in Technology Summit, visit

Source: CSM

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