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“Hands on”, “cool”, and “informational” were some of the ways 137 young women from Phoenix Union High School District described the faculty-led activities during the Hermanas Conference on February 24, 2023 at Phoenix College (PC). Funded by the APS Foundation, the Hermanas conference seeks to increase the number of underrepresented female students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and impact the diversity of the STEM workforce. Since its inception in 2005, Hermanas has served more than 6,500 students from more than 50 schools across Maricopa County.
A Team Effort
Organized by STEAM Outreach Coordinator Alicia Fritz and a team of PC personnel, the recruitment effort opened with a welcome address by Dean Adrianna Coronel and a Town Hall panel of presenters in Bulpitt Auditorium as well as a resource fair in Pastor Plaza that included specialists from Financial Aid, Achieving College Education (ACE), and the Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program led by Dr. Frank Marfai. The resource fair “let Hermanas participants know we are ready for them to take the next steps" in becoming a STEM student at PC, said Alicia. APS Foundation also provided lunch and group photo opportunities by the event photographer and PC staff member Melissa Arreola-Valdez.
Yet, the conference's focus was the hands-on 40-minute activities facilitated by Phoenix College STEM faculty who volunteered their time. Joe Drosendahl, OYO faculty in the Physical Sciences Department, led the workshop Identifying Minerals at this year's conference and Geology Rocks in 2020 when the gathering was last held due to the pandemic. Joe said, "I enjoy talking about Geology to anybody, especially to the young women attending the Hermanas Conference when I can create a spark in them about Geology. I will always volunteer." Participants found the workshop "interactive" and "a career in geology truly possible." Faculty members Bret Little, Elena Ortiz, Patsy Herman, Bryce Davis, and Rob Klinger shared their expertise in forensics, wildlife, math, engineering, and physics, respectively.
Work Based Experiences for PC students
The Hermanas conference also allowed nine PC students to bring their know-how to a Work-Based Experience (WBE). PC's ALRISE Alliance, co-led by Rita Perry and Rob Klinger, pitched the idea of including WBEs early in the conference planning. ALRISE is a collaborative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to Accelerate Latinx Representation in STEM Education (ALRISE). Math faculty Patsy Herman and Biology Lab Specialist Josh James offered a lab, Trajectory and Robotics, which used math to calculate the distance of a Hot Wheels trajectory and PC WBE students Ceilaly Gonzalez, Evelyn Rivera, and Maya Lee provided hands-on support. In the wildlife activity facilitated by Bioscience faculty Elena Ortiz, Students Success Specialist Albertine Perez-Hope gave a presentation on the social app iNaturalist for bio nerds.
STEM and STEAM fosters interdisciplinary engagement
Phoenix College offers a variety of STEM and STEAM programs to foster interdisciplinary engagement and activate creativity, critical thinking, and student learning. Integration between the Arts and the STEM fields is essential to the needs of the modern workforce.