Recently, a new project, Natives in STEM, unveiled a unique resource to encourage Native American youth to participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). New posters featuring Native STEM professionals will be distributed to schools and communities across New Mexico and the U.S. A complementary website (www.NativesInSTEM.org) filled with Native STEM professionals’ stories has also launched for students, schools, and communities to use as an educational resource.
“Growing up, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, didn’t see myself represented, in my science and math textbooks and classroom walls,” said Chelsea Chee, project co-founder and Diversity Coordinator for the New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR), a National Science Foundation–funded program. “I wanted to change that.”
Studies show that students find it difficult to imagine themselves as part of the STEM community if they don’t see people like them represented in related images or learning environments. However, exposure to positive images and success stories can increase a sense of belonging for those not traditionally represented in STEM fields. Images and stories of Native scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians hardly existed for Native people to access, until now!
The first Natives in STEM posters feature two Ph.D. engineers – Stan Atcitty, a Dine’/Navajo man at Sandia National Laboratories and Otakuye Conroy-Ben, an Olgala Lakota woman and professor at Arizona State University. And, www.NativesInSTEM.org has stories from other Native professionals from different tribes and backgrounds. New posters and stories will periodically be added in the future.
“We are excited see a school on a tribal nation with a poster of a Native engineer hanging on the walls for all the students, parents, grandparents, and community to see,” said Lisa Paz, project co-founder and Director of Membership and Communications for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).
Natives in STEM is a joint project of the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) and New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR).