SpectrUM Discovery Area highlights women in STEM

IF/THEN: An Initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies
The spectrUM Discovery Area is an IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant recipient. Twenty-six ASTC-member museums received funding to launch projects aimed at increasing the representation of women and gender minorities in STEM across their museums’ content. This grant program is supported by the IF/THEN Initiative, a national effort sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers while creating a culture shift in how the world perceives women in STEM.

The spectrUM Discovery Area is the University of Montana’s hands-on science center in Missoula and is dedicated to inspiring the next generation to learn about academic and career pathways in STEM. We have plans to reopen our small science center to the public in Spring 2021 after relocating to the new Missoula Public Library, where—for the first time—spectrUM will offer free admission to the public.

The large role model banners at spectrUM.

In Spring 2020, spectrUM was proud to be a recipient of an IF/THEN® Gender Equity Grant to provide new opportunities for girls and youth in Montana to see themselves in STEM careers and learn about inspirational women role models. While our museum remained closed at that time, we were eager to engage students with women STEM mentors. We were so excited to share about the amazing collection of AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors because our team was impressed by the diverse and impressive women represented in the IF/THEN® Collection. On a weekly basis, we highlighted one of the Ambassadors using assets from the collection and featured them on our Facebook feed. These posts received extremely high engagement, which was encouraging. Our highest post engagement was over 10,000, which was a huge increase form our typical engagement. Due to their popularity with our audiences, we are continuing to share these stories and the images from the Collection.

For our project, we also chose five women to feature in our museum as large role model banners. Again, our team was excited to scour through the Collection to select which Ambassadors to feature. We focused on women with ties to Montana or the northwestern United States region. We also focused on featuring a variety of STEM fields. In the end, we chose to print large role model banners of Kris Inman, Rae Wynn-Grant, Arlyne Simon, Jordana Dahmen, and Bea Mendez Gandica. Using the photos and biographies of the Ambassadors found in the Collection, we printed the banners and placed them in our museum. It was easy for us to reach out to the IF/THEN team when we had questions and to make sure that what we were printing was accurate and approved by the Ambassadors. Each banner features a quote from the role model, as well as a short biography, written in first person. These quotes are designed to bring the visitor in, and to help to show them that scientists are simply people like them, with interests, aspirations, and dreams of their own.

“I never had a person of color to guide me, and I’m trying to make sure that other students will.”

Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, carnivore ecologist and National Geographic Society Fellow

“I got interested in science before I even knew what science was.”

Jordana Dahmen, research regulatory coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System

This post was contributed by Jessie Herbert-Meny, director of spectrUM Discovery Area.

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