Peeking behind the curtain of running an outreach program
STEMM outreach is an essential component of STEMM community engagement, education, and science communications. There’s a lot of strategy and finesse in translating scientific principles into captivating demonstrations. However, there are additional challenges that many don’t know about when it comes to running STEMM outreach with social justice-oriented missions, ones that target audiences from disadvantaged or marginalized backgrounds for sustained engagement.
Here, I continue a conversation with two friends I’ve worked closely with to talk about the unique challenges of running an outreach program that targets students from marginalized communities. Check out part 1 where we cover topics including challenges of reaching middle school students, parental effects on STEMM enthusiasm, sustained community engagement, and motivations for getting into STEMM outreach. Now in part 2, we cover challenges in reflecting diversity in volunteers, soliciting financial support, fostering art and creativity in STEMM, and advice on working in STEMM outreach.
Murchtricia Jones, Sydney Rosenblum, and I worked together as directors for the University of Michigan’s InnoWorks chapter, an organization that puts together week-long summer camps for socioeconomically disadvantaged middle school students. Murchtricia is a PhD candidate in bioinformatics; Murchtricia re-started the organization after a long institutional hiatus and served as the executive director for three years. Sydney Rosenblum is the current director of U-MyScI, the rebranded InnoWorks chapter, and previously served as the logistics director for two years.
Why faculty should care about student mental health welfare and how faculty can help.
In the visible and vocal wings of STEMM, communities in academic institutions have strived to and struggled to cope with the growing mental health crisis. Numerous think pieces have contemplated how this crisis is getting worse throughout U.S. graduate schools, often citing how graduate students are six times more likely to experience depression and anxiety when compared to the general public. This epidemic is indiscriminate to age, geographical location, field of study, and degree level, though each combination of variables presents unique challenges to be addressed. Across countless institutions, administrators have held task forces, focus groups, wellness lectures, and presented recommendations to department heads and regents. Meanwhile, students of all degree types have organized in unions, held demonstrations, and commiserate by connecting through articles and memes. But key players with stakes in this mental health crisis are seemingly less loud, often hidden or even missing entirely: what are faculty up to in this epidemic?