National Girls Collaborative Institute Days 2-3 Recap

As mentioned in the first recap (which obviously you, my slavishly devoted readers, read), I’m in Tucson for the National Girls Collaborative Institute. Why? Because as someone with a growing interest in and passion for STEM education, I wanted to learn about the nuts and bolts of a project whose collaborative model has enabled and connected girl-focused STEM organizations across the country. And also, because NGCP asked me to speak about using social media as a community builder. And also because I work for a cool company that lets me go to these sorts of things.

Anyways, when I left off yesterday, I was about to go to a dinner/laser show at the University of Arizona’s Flandrau Science Center, which contains a planetarium, telescope, mineral museum and marine discovery center. If any of you are ever in Tucson, I definitely recommend going–U of A is justifiably famous for its geology and astronomy programs, and the Science Center is staffed with fervently knowledgeable geologists, gemologists, marine biologists and astronomers, plus a staggering amount of Wulfenite. The lazer show was set to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, I ate empanadas and nitroglycerin ice cream, Tucson is famous for its mid-century neon signs, sea cucumbers spew their guts into predators’ faces as a last resort, Jupiter shone bright and poor little Io is melting. (Want to work for SoftArtisans? We’re hiring.)

This morning was devoted to increasing diversity in your organization and its target audience. I learned a lot about how to make your organization accessible and welcoming to those with disabilities from Digigirlz founder Mylene Padolina and Microsoft’s Senior Director of Advertising Support and Services Jennie Lay-Flurrie. An inherently serious topic, but JLF’s talk was dry and a little snarky and very very funny. And I think she’s right–Kate Spade should make hearing aids. Then, NGCP’s Vicky Raya held a session on engaging underrepresented minority girls in STEM. She spoke about the importance of role models in ensuring that girls adapt to their environment without losing their cultural identities and of setting high standards and assuring girls that they can make them. She also showed us an interesting chart from Change the Equation: the STEM career gender parity is lower among minorities than it is for caucasians.

After lunch, Ann Millspaugh, who manages the online communities for NGCP and the Edlab Group, and I ran through social media’s value, user demographics and set-up/maintainence instructions in our presentation: “Search and Employ: How to Use Social Media to Locate, Build and Maintain Communities.” We had a lot of audience questions, and I could have easily filled another hour with more specific tutorials and examples, but c’est la vie.

Now we have one more session and then this chickadee is determined to get her hands around one of the Institute’s official “Collaboritas.” Hasta la vista!

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