August 21, 2019

Wesley Is Keynote for Women in STEM Event

Women in STEM
CSM math professor Sandy Poinsett, left, will welcome back her former student, CSM alumna Dr. Syria Wesley, right, as the keynote speaker at CSM’s annual Women in STEM Conference on May 3, 2019.

Dr. Syria Wesley, an alumna of College of Southern Maryland, will return to the La Plata Campus on May 3 to offer the keynote speech at the college’s annual Women in STEM Conference. The Maurice J. McDonough High School graduate credits her time at the college for transforming her life and putting her on a STEM career path to become a pharmacist with a doctorate degree.

“I come from a family where you graduated from high school and you basically went to work for the government or worked at the post office and that’s just what you did,” Dr. Wesley told ABC/WJLA Channel 7 education reporter Kellye Lynn in a recent interview. “I am the first person in my family to ever graduate from college, let alone achieve my doctorate degree.”

Dr. Wesley was interviewed for ABC’s coverage of CSM being awarded a nearly $1 million grant by the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program. A recipient of a NSF S-STEM grant herself, Dr. Wesley was able to attend CSM full time in 2012 and then transfer to Notre Dame of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy. Dr. Wesley’s interview with ABC/WJLA Channel 7 has not aired yet.

In a Dec. 18, 2018, Forbes magazine article on how WEX Inc. is keeping women in STEM careers, the company’s Chief Corporate Development Officer Nicola Morris told contributing writer Jill Griffin that more girls need to be exposed to STEM careers at a younger age.

“It’s no surprise that women are underrepresented in Nicola’s sector since few American women are graduating from college with STEM degrees,” Griffin wrote in the article. “Just 35 percent of bachelor’s degrees in STEM are held by women, [according to the Brookings Institution] and for women of color, the percentage is even more minuscule (less than 5 percent of black women, Latinas, and Asian women graduate with a bachelor’s in a STEM field). Nicola says that’s because the educational bias starts early, lowering girls’ aspirations for science and engineering careers.”

CSM’s annual Women in STEM conference encourages young women to not limit their career or education options. “It is very important to share with young women all of the opportunities available to them and that there is nothing a young women can’t do when she puts her mind to it,” said conference planner and CSM Professor Sandra Poinsett in a press release from the college. “STEM careers are fun, fulfilling and the world needs more women in STEM careers and becoming tomorrow’s problem solvers.”

“When I was awarded the S-STEM scholarship from 2012-2014, I was able to attend college full time and graduate with honors,” Dr. Wesley said. “I was able to utilize so many resources thanks to CSM and that grant. We had tutors; networking; we went to [Naval Air Station] Pax River; anything you needed to excel, CSM and the NSF scholarship provided.

“There is a support system at CSM that was so beneficial and makes us close-knit here,” Dr. Wesley continued. “That is the benefit of attending a community college. And I can’t wait to come back and encourage young girls to chase STEM careers.”

Ms. Poinsett also pointed out that many young girls do not realize that STEM careers go far beyond the typical science, technology, engineering, and math careers they might envision.

“STEM careers also include biological sciences, computer information systems, computer science, engineering, gaming, information services technology, information systems, cybersecurity, and physical sciences,” she said. “And STEM jobs constitute some of the highest-paying jobs in American and worldwide.”

Conference presenters are professional women in different stages of their careers who work in STEM professions. The event will feature presentations, workshops, and discussions that are designed to inform young women about STEM-related careers, including the keynote address by Dr. Wesley. Free lunch will be served.

“If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” Dr. Wesley said. “And all of your dreams can come true. If I had never given STEM a second look, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I absolutely love my job.”

The May 3 event will be held from 9 am to 1 pm at the college’s La Plata Campus, Center for Building and Industry Room 113 at 8730 Mitchell Road in La Plata. The conference is open to young women ages 13 and older, plus high school math teachers and parents. RSVP and register on the college’s website. For more information, contact Professor Poinsett at 301-934-7808 or by email or CSM Math Division Chair Dr. Stephanie McCaslin at 301-934-7803.

For more about the College of Southern Maryland, visit its Leader member page.

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