STEM Mentoring Program for Women Grows with AT&T Support
March 21, 2017
From left: Elvyn Escudero, teacher Tige Brown, Juana Tovar, all from Hillcrest High School, and Dr. Chandramallika Basak of UT Dallas worked together on a robotic wheelchair that can be controlled by brain waves as part of last year's Young Women in Science and Engineering activities.
A UT Dallas mentorship program designed to support young women exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) continues to grow, thanks to industry partnerships.
The University’s Young Women in Science and Engineering (YWISE) Investigators program recently partnered with the AT&T Foundry in Plano to give about 80 high school students, their college mentors and 10 teachers a guided tour of the facility. As part of the event, AT&T presented a gift of $20,000 to the program.
“The tours at our industry partners’ facilities are an important step in showing students what a job in a STEM field is like,” said Dr. Magaly Spector, who coordinates the program through the Office of the Provost. “We’re very grateful that AT&T — and our other corporate partners — help us achieve our goal of showing our program’s participants that they can overcome their challenges, attend college and pursue a STEM career.”
Established in 2012, the program encourages Dallas-area high school and community college students to pursue careers in science and engineering fields, and sharpens students’ skills through hands-on STEM research and mentoring. They compete in teams to design, develop and implement solutions to science and engineering problems.
“We are very grateful that AT&T — and our other corporate partners — help us achieve our goal of showing our program’s participants that they can overcome their challenges, attend college, and pursue a STEM career.”
Matt Foster, the regional director for external affairs at AT&T, praised YWISE Investigators for its strength in showing students the breadth of opportunities for careers in this spectrum.
“It’s a fantastic way to expose our future female leaders to both traditional and nontraditional careers in STEM fields,” Foster said. “We’re proud to partner with UT Dallas as we engage and foster the curiosity of high school students by providing hands-on, up close and personal interactive design experiences to increase their interest in STEM subject matter.”
Mentors in the YWISE Investigators program facilitate teamwork-oriented scientific research among students from underprivileged backgrounds. These mentors — who are UT Dallas students and professors, professionals from corporations, and high school science teachers — each guide one team of three or four student participants through a one-year research or design project development cycle.
College mentor Priyanka Chadalavada, a computer science graduate student at UT Dallas, said the AT&T facility tour and panel session enhanced the YWISE Investigators experience.
“My students are now more aligned toward engineering having seen the applications of the technology,” Chadalavada said. “The Women’s Panel at AT&T reinforced the belief that hard work and discipline can take them a long way in their career. Since each of their stories was different and since they came from diverse backgrounds, the panel had a perfect blend of speakers to cater to students from all majors.”
Paula Rilling, chemistry teacher and science department chair at Berkner High School in Richardson, agreed that YWISE Investigators is about expanding horizons.
“What we do in high school, especially in science, is limited to what’s been done before,” Rilling said. “Almost every question that I ask in one of my classes has an answer already. What this program allows the girls to see is that the world is full of questions that don't have answers yet, and there are people who have decided to spend their lives working on those answers.”