I was pleasantly pleased to see the invite from KCALSI for the W.I.S.E event. I was more than happy to register and attend considering STEM Education is our passion and our livelihood. It also helped that the University of Missouri Dean of Engineering, Dr. Elizabeth Loboa was the guest speaker. She delivered an impassioned presentation on the benefits of diversity in STEM as well as her vision for the growth and changes happening at the school of engineering in Columbia.
I enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with many STEM entrepreneurial women who are the true role models to the young women. These great leaders also play a role in advocating for women to join STEM and STEAM. The only thing I wished for and differed with the conference is that they would use STEAM (adding Arts into STEM) in place of STEM. Although they are almost the same, STEM represents the traditional education while STEAM represents the modern one. To understand my reasons in using STEAM over STEM you might wish to check out this link.
Among the many things she talked about, the topic on how the school of engineering produced more entrepreneurs than any other department on UMC campus got me thinking. As course developers, we naturally talk about entrepreneurship in all our STEM education / STEAM education courses. Nevertheless, her statement did make me think a bit as I was driving back to the office. As it turns out, most of the successful entrepreneurs I know have a background in STEM. Additionally, experience in STEM / STEAM is a common denominator among most of the startup entrepreneurs I have helped over the years. The same applies to those who have helped me.
Most of them are purebred engineers while others are a mixed breed. (I am of an “engineer mutt” as can be seen from my resume). My roots in engineering are more in product development. Unsurprisingly, the variety that entrepreneurship appeals to me naturally. This fact explains my strong bias towards engineers and STEM/STEAM types becoming entrepreneurs. Engineering schools should produce the most entrepreneurs because they are professional schools. Attending an engineering school means that professors with a lot of experience in the industry will teach you. By default, engineers invent solutions. It is therefore natural to see that the best and brightest in engineering take their ideas and strike out on their own (hopefully with a great deal of mentoring and guidance).
Venturing into business as an engineer is not a walk in the park. It has plenty of pitfalls, and I am saying that out of a personal experience. This is good fodder for another blog post.
I enjoyed attending the event as it gave me the opportunity to mingle with bright women who support the idea of young women considering a career in STEM or STEAM. Seeing a dynamic engineering dean who has a great vision for the power of diversity is proof that post-secondary STEM education is growing in the right direction. It also speaks volumes about all the great things that are happening in our country. Indeed, this was a great experience and I hope more STEM education professionals take the time to be there next year. It was worth every moment.
Have fun – Steve