Every special events planner dreams about someday creating a signature annual event, one that has long-lasting and meaningful impact. Often, it’s a fund-raising event for an important cause. Women in our town have created signature events in support of the symphony, to fight breast cancer, and to build neonatal care facilities at a local hospital. In most cases, you don’t know you are creating a signature event until it becomes one.
My signature event is the outgrowth of a routine assignment from my boss—figure out a way to demonstrate the university’s commitment to future workforce development with an emphasis on encouraging girls’ interest in STEM. The result was Girls Science and Engineering Day, a day-long annual program that brings 500 third through fifth grade girls to campus to take part in workshops presented by women engineers, scientists, mathematicians, computer experts, biologists, and rocket scientists. A hard sell the first year, Girls Science and Engineering Day (http://gseduah.com) has grown in quality and passion, attracting a faithful cadre of volunteers, excited girls, corporate sponsors, and even the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team. My job is to be the catalyst that creates the structure then ignites the efforts of more than 300 enthusiastic volunteers who implement the program, infuse it with energy, and ensure its success. With 10 years under our belts, Girls Science and Engineering Day has won a wall full of awards and is widely copied by other schools. We happily share our formula.
This week I had the honor to join women from Bolivia, Burma, Cameroon, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, and Slovenia who are here on a U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program to gather ideas and share how-to information so that they can implement STEM support programs for females in their countries. All accomplished professors, engineers, astronomers, and even a medical doctor, it was fascinating to hear the obstacles they have encountered and the joys of their successes on their quests to attain their career goals. Like us, they all share the desire to help other girls and women achieve their dreams and they are willing to make time in their own busy lives to mentor and to provide programming to help lead the way. Despite very different backgrounds, talking with these women felt like we were seeing old friends. We swapped ideas, compared notes and told the story of our experiences. It is very satisfying to know that Girls Science and Engineering Day has now been shared internationally and that our program may germinate ideas that will help little girls in other countries awaken their full potentials. Now that’s future workforce development!