Friday October 23rd NSBE Boston Professionals kicked off their first STEM Through the Years virtual panel discussion, in celebration of Massachusetts’ STEM Week 2020. The event hosted a talented group of STEM advocates ranging from collegiate, early to senior level STEM professionals, as well as emerging executives in the STEM industry. The focus of the event was centered on the personal journey of each of the panelists through STEM academia and professionally. In addition there was even a surprise guest appearance by the Massachusetts Secretary of Education – Mr. James Peyser.
The event started with a short presentation about NSBE, and our commitment to continuing to represent and promote awareness of STEM careers among blacks and minority groups. As is tradition, the event kicked off by having the audience harmoniously recite NSBE’s mission of “increasing the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”
Opening Statements by the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Mr. James Peyser
After the short introduction, the focus was shifted towards the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Mr. James Peyser, who provided opening statements for the event. Mr. Peyser articulated the importance of supporting initiatives that promote change and diversity. He also reiterated his team’s commitment to the creation of opportunities for underrepresented groups throughout the Commonwealth. Lastly, Mr. Peyser expressed his gratitude to NSBE, as well as other organizations alike, for creating a platform where students receive guidance and support from professionals that were in similar situations, and overcame similar barriers.
Introduction to STEM: Science + Technology + Engineering + Mathematics
Following Mr. Peyser’s message, the event continued with a brief presentation titled Introduction to STEM and was presented by NSBE Boston’s own Luis Horton. After defining and correlating the different STEM pillars, the presentation ended by outlining four important reasons for choosing a STEM related discipline.
STEM has a presence in every aspect of our lives.
STEM disciplines provide skills that are key to thrive in today’s science and technology driven society.
Knowledge in these fields opens long-term opportunities professionally and economic stability in the future; and lastly
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2019 and 2029, STEM occupations will grow three times as much compared to non-STEM fields.
STEM Through the Years – Panel Discussion
Following the brief presentation about STEM, participants of the panel were introduced, and the discussion began.
Kyree Blackwell – Pharmaceutical Consultant | Product Developer | NSBE Boston – Programs Chair
Mark Bray – Biomedical Engineering and Professional Writing student at WPI
Early Career Professional
Sapreen Abbass – Mechanical Engineer | Project Manager | NSBE Boston – PCI Chair
Kwesi Yankson – Associate Software Engineer at Liberty Mutual
Mid-Senior Level Professional
Jovinson Ripert – Civil Engineer | MBA Candidate (’22) at MIT Sloan School of Management
Emerging Executive Professional
Dr. Venecia R. Wilson – BS in Agricultural & Biological Engineering | BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences | PhD in Industrial & Physical Pharmacy | Associate Management Consultant at Merck KGaA
Panel Discussion Summary
Mark Bray is a current university student who grew up tinkering with toys and small objects in a household heavily influenced by STEM. Mark shared that his father is an engineer, and his mother was a math teacher, before finding a new career in the health industry. Mark noted that some of the keys to having success in a STEM focused education are an appreciation for teamwork, curiosity, resilience, and self-confidence.
When asked how he discovered STEM, Kwesi Yankson who is early in his career at Liberty Mutual, stated that he found out about STEM while taking a course at Middle School. His Father, who’s career focused in computers and telecommunications, was a big influence for him growing up. Kwesi decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, driven by curiosity, and the affinity of interests he shared with peers pursuing the program. One of the aspects he values about having a STEM focused education is the – do it yourself- type of mentality that students develop throughout the course of their programs. Although Kwesi acknowledges the importance of having a formal education, he recommends students to take ownership for their personal growth, by also taking advantage of channels outside the traditional setting, such as independent online communities, forums, tutorials and more.
Sapreen Abbass found out about STEM during her high school years. Her father, who is a skillful carpenter, unknowingly planted the seed of craftiness onto her as a child. Out of the four STEM conforming pillars, Sapreen felt inclined for engineering, enticed by the idea of solving projects by hand. Now that STEM has become part of her life, she embraces with pride the positive impact that her career allows her to make in the world. One advice she would give to a student seeking guidance on his/her decision to pursue a STEM related discipline would be, to take the time to explore and learn about their true passions first, to avoid losing excitement for their career of choice in the future.
Jovinson Ripert developed his passion for science and mathematics early on in life. As a child, a tv show titled “Build it Bigger”, ignited his fascination and curiosity for architectural designs and Civil Engineering. Having gone through a great deal of schooling, Jovinson acknowledges that a STEM focused education forces you to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. One advice Jovinson would give to young professionals is to appreciate the value of mentorship, since this could be a channel to advance efficiently in your professional career.
Dr. Venecia Wilson became interested in pursuing a career in STEM, during her junior year in high school. Her AP chemistry teacher influenced her decision to become an Engineer that “makes medicine”. Aside from the importance of chasing your dreams, Dr. Wilson is aware of the benefits that a STEM focused education could bring to the life of an individual. Some advice from Dr. Wilson to individuals battling to achieve a sense of belonging while in college or professionally, is the importance of self-awareness. She noted that as humans we naturally adapt to our surroundings, therefore it is important that we self-reflect and ask ourselves the following; 1) How have we changed ourselves to make others feel comfortable in that environment? 2) Which of those changes is bringing the internal conflict? 3) How are we going to change the situation e.g. environment vs ourselves. Lastly she finished up by encouraging the embracement of new opportunities, by always remembering that “[w]e are the source of our limits in life”.
PCI- Upcoming Initiatives
- – NSBE Boston Professionals – PCI Instagram Account
- – STEM Through the Years panel discussion – Introduction to Sciences and Mathematics
- – Homework Helpers – One on one tutoring
- – A Day in the Life Series – Featuring STEM college students and STEM graduated professionals