MAYHEW – Decades after its debut at East Mississippi Community College’s Golden Triangle campus, the Women In Science and Technology conference is still opening eyes.
Counselor Brenda Wilson, who heads the WIST committee, isn’t sure how long the conference has been hosted at EMCC since a national initiative began offering grant money for programs aimed at introducing female high school students to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers. But she’s been leading the charge at EMCC for close to 20 years, although this will be her last conference before she retires.
“It’s quite important that young ladies understand that the sky is the limit if they major in STEM areas. These skills are going to carry them into the workplace and keep them there,” said Wilson.
To make her point, more 300 female students from nine high schools, at least one traveling from nearly 100 miles away, attended the 2014 WIST conference Feb. 28 at EMCC. They heard from a diverse lineup of women already working in STEM careers and some who are in the higher education phase on their way to a STEM career.
The youngest presenter was Shelley Edwards, a senior at East Webster High School who expects to earn her associate’s degree from EMCC just days after her high school diploma in May through EMCC’s Dual Enrollment program. Edwards is the first and only EMCC Dual Enrollment student to attempt taking a full college course load while attending high school.
She addressed her peers in EMCC’s Lyceum.
“I wanted everyone here to realize it’s really not that difficult. Nor do you have to give up your life to get ahead and get a college degree. It’s worth the few hours you might have to give up each day to do your classwork. But even if you never go any further, you’ll always have that degree,” said Edwards.
Additional presenters included Dr. Renee Clary, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University; Chief Master Sgt. Terri Hartman, air traffic controller with the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus Air Force Base; and representatives from MSU’s Agricultural and Biological Engineering graduate program, Airbus Helicopters, USDA Forestry Services and others.
High schools participating in the 2014 WIST conference included West Point High School, John C. Stennis Vocational Complex from Kemper County, Northeast High School from Lauderdale, McKellar Technology Center from Columbus, New Hope High School, West Lowndes High School, Noxubee County High School, Millsaps Career and Technology Center from Starkville and Starkville Academy.