Bringing diversity into STEM fields is the life goal of local residents

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Carolyn Gardner-Thomas, Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh and Aminah Bergeron. Credit: Springfield Technical Community College

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A local resident who earned a degree in engineering and a Ph.D. in STEM education is dedicating her life to bringing diversity into the STEM field.

Carolyn Gardner-Thomas a graduate from Springfield Technical Community College, is one of many women and people of color who are often underrepresented in the STEM field.

“STCC is where I found community – that’s where I found people who looked like me and people who wanted to work with me, smaller classes, instructors I could connect with,” said Garnder-Thomas.

Gardner-Thomas has dedicated her whole career to expand the possibilities for women and people of color in STEM.

She ran a STEM starter academy at Holyoke Community College for a year, for three years she directed the STEM Ambassador Program at UMass, and today she is a co-director of the Mathematics for Teaching master’s program at the Harvard Extension School.

STEM refers to the areas of study within science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines.

One of her students Aminah Bergeron, with the help of Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh an engineering professor had the chance to enter a competitive NASA program that flew her to a NASA facility in Virginia for a week.

“STEM has always been a male-dominated field, but with the future generation we can change that,” said Bergeron.

Bergeron, who is in her second year of mechanical engineering aims to get a job as an engineer at Pratt and Whitney.

According to McGinnis-Cavanaugh, the numbers of women in STEM majors are still too low as she remembers very often being the only woman in the classroom during her time at STCC and UMass.

“The list is long and we need you – we need all of who you are. We need people that look like you with your unique identities and intersectionalities of identities so if you are an immigrant, Black, a woman like myself, we need your experiences; we need your background, this is the way we’re going to be able to solve problems,” said Gardner-Thomas who was among several speakers featured at a STEM careers symposium held in October 2020.

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