My Take on TU: STEM^2

Today’s My Take on TU comes from Alyssa Hernandez, a junior Mechanical Engineering major from Tulsa, OK.

This past fall, the Student Team Engaging Minorities in STEM (STEM^2) organization hosted the Second Annual STEM Fair at The University of Tulsa. The event was focused on informing high school students of all the wonderful opportunities TU and a career in STEM has to offer. This year, a total of 74 high school students, 32 parents, 52 TU students, and nine community members attended. The event was a tremendous success, receiving a great amount of positive feedback from students, parents, and administration.

Key aspects of the event consisted of a science show, presented by Dr. Iski and Dr. LeBlanc, both Assistant Professors in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Additionally, students experienced a campus tour, various organization/club booths from the university and the Tulsa community, as well as a phenomenal guest speaker, NASA’s first Hispanic female flight director, Ginger Kerrick.

We were honored to have such an admirable guest at this year’s STEM fair. Her life’s journey is a true example of hard work and determination. Coming from a diverse background and being female, the proverbial glass ceiling was always present. Yet, that didn’t stop Kerrick. Initially, aiming to become a professional basketball player, to wanting to become an astronaut, and then to making history, Kerrick’s story kept everyone in the room wanting to hear more. Excitement grew when Kerrick surprised everyone with a phone call from space! Peggy Whitson, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station called Kerrick during her presentation and was delighted to answer a few questions from the students. With her down-to-earth personality, and impassioned speech, Kerrick encouraged others to pursue their dreams. She is now the division chief of the Flight Integration Division at the Johnson Space Center.

Overall, the event was intended to inspire and empower the next generation of STEM majors. With the hard work of all STEM^2 officers and the vision of the organization’s President, Natalie Santa-Pinter, we pulled off another great year at the STEM Fair! We hope to have opened doors to new opportunities for the high school students, leaving them ambitious about pursuing higher education; ultimately making their interests in STEM a reality in their future careers.