In today's special feature episode of the Trailblazers podcast, we engaged in a panel conversation with three Spelman College alumnae: Dr. Monica F. Cox, Dr. Carlotta Berry and Dr. Rochelle Williams. They discussed being among some of today's most accomplished hidden figures, how to build a supportive community for black women and ways to start being #VisibleFigures in STEM.

Episode Outline:

      • 04:45 Provide an overview of the movie and share what Hidden Figures was about.
      • 05:30 Which character did each of you identify with most from the movie?
      • 08:44 You all attended Spelman College and had a love for engineering.  Could you speak to that?
      • 11:00 What stood out most for each of you in the movie?
      • 16:24 What specific scenes resonated most?
      • 21:43 Was there anything else that continues to talked over and non-STEM venues?
      • 24:00 Do you black men also question your role as engineers?
      • 33:23 How important is community for women who are the first and maybe the only in their professions?
      • 34:49 What are the main takeaways from the movie, from a STEM perspective?
      • 37:12 Are black women in STEM hidden?
      • 44:30 Do you think that engineering is any more hidden than the other sectors of STEM?
      • 47:49 How do black women in STEM become more visible?
      • 49:45 What can we do to change the public image of STEM to increase the number of girls and young children of color who go on to pursue careers in STEM?
      • 53:30 How do we educate the public on what you women have been contributing to STEM and why it's important to have that diverse perspective and experiences?
      • 58:54 What's next for the world's hidden figures? How do we continue this conversation after this award season and movie have passed?
      • 01:03:12 How can we build community around this initiative and ideas we've discussed?

Since my research area is robotics I like to tell people a lot that it's not just technical research for me but it's also a recruiting tool for me. So, I do a lot of things with K-12 related to robotics, because I think it's a wonderful hook to bring more young people into the STEM fields and I think a lot of what I do is because of Spelman and the fact that I know the value of sisterhood and reaching back to bring someone else along and that if we are ever going to change the face of this profession to reflect the world in which we live in, to have the diversity in it that is the diversity that we see every day. And so because of that I related the most to Dorothy and the fact that she didn't just steal the book from the library but she went back to work and read it to everyone else and taught them how to program the computers late into the middle of the night, so much so, that eventually her boss had to recognize… ~ Dr. Carlotta Berry

It's all about perseverance, the hard work you do when you're tired of doing the hard work you've already done. And I want people to know that if you want to do it, you can flippin' do it. It's not easy by any means, but it's possible and there are women out here who have paved the way to make this happen, so that you too can do it. ~ Dr. Rochelle Williams

Leadership to me is a form of activism. So, often we think that activism is just protesting in the streets or starting some other kind of movement but I think that STEM is a movement within itself, because we're behind the scenes making major decisions about our future and about innovation and about who will believe those innovations. And I just want people to see the bigger picture of what we're doing. Delayed gratification is definitely something that's a part of STEM education. Just speaking about higher education, it's a hierarchy and bureaucracy. And you have to do your time. But what I've seen is if you do your time and if you do what you do well, then you begin to have a voice, you have a seat at the table and you're making the decisions that are changing what goes on. ~ Dr. Monica F. Cox


Connect with our panel:

Monica F. Cox Bio

Monica F. Cox, Ph.D, is Professor and Chair in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. Prior to this appointment, she was an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, the Inaugural Director of the College of Engineering's Leadership Minor, and the Director of the International Institute of Engineering Education Assessment (i2e2a). In 2013, she became founder and owner of STEMinent LLC, a company focused on STEM education assessment and professional development for stakeholders in K-12 education, higher education, and Corporate America. Her research is focused on the use of mixed methodologies to explore significant research questions in undergraduate, graduate, and professional engineering education, to integrate concepts from higher education and learning science into engineering education, and to develop and disseminate reliable and valid assessment tools for use across the engineering education continuum. She has most recently engaged in research exploring the persistence of Women of Color faculty in engineering.

Carlotta Berry Bio

Dr. Carlotta A. Berry is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She is the Co-Director of the NSF S-STEM Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity (ROSE-BUD) Scholarship and Professional Development Program. She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and electrical engineering from Spelman College and Georgia Institute of Technology. She has a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Wayne State University and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. Her research interests are in robotics education, interface design, human-robot interaction, and increasing underrepresented populations in STEM fields.

Rochelle Williams Bio

Rochelle Williams is a Louisiana girl, Spelman woman, and lover of all things New Orleans Saints football. No stranger to implicit and institutional biases, she is an advocate for women of color in STEM and the relevancy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In her pursuit of #ComprehensionOverCareer, she currently works as a Research Scientist in the Office of The Provost at Prairie View A&M University. She works on projects at the intersection of continuous quality improvement and STEM education, supporting the research infrastructure at PVAMU.

Dr. Williams serves as Program Chair for the Minorities in Engineering Division for the American Society for Engineering Education and is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She has a B.S. in physics from Spelman College and both her M.Engr. in Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D. in Science and Mathematics Education from Southern University and A&M College.

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