I was quite interested to attend the Ozark STEM Foundation launch event at the Shewmaker Center on Northwest Arkansas Community College’s campus. I must say the event did not disappoint. Between the several student groups presenting their recent STEM undertakings, vendors presenting their current STEM toys and the multitude of attendees, there was a feeling of excitement and passion for enhancing the sciences in Northwest Arkansas.
There were two speakers whose message spoke the truest to me. The first point came form Karenann Terrell, the Chief Information Officer at Walmart. Terrell’s theme was one of connection, communication and collaboration between grade schools, universities and businesses throughout Northwest Arkansas. She was also quick to mention that we must stop competing with one another to truly develop and enrich our community.
The second point came from Kimberly Kay, a teenager with a mission. Ms. Kay is a member of her high school’s 4-H club who has won various accolades. What struck me about her story was her haphazard venture into technology. Kimberly described herself as only wanting to be involved with 4-H via a marketing role until she realized how technology could help her and, more importantly, that she was capable of creating and implementing technology. This experience has shifted her outlook and now Ms. Kay wishes to study engineering.
I left the venue with a renewed motivation and passion for STEM, education and community. We can do more. We will do more. We are worth creating, promoting and sharing STEM experiences with our community. After all, isn’t that the spirit of STEM? It’s an integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, so we can create the impossible today to enhance our lives tomorrow. The Ozark STEM Foundation is the association to help us get there.
Jennifer Paulk, Ph.D.
Department of Mathematical Sciences
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville