STEM Summit Empowers Students to Overcome Obstacles and Never Give Up

By Dani Moritz-Long

“When I was growing up I could be a firefighter, a teacher or a preacher,” said Business and Accounting Professor Stanton Reed to an audience of STEM students. “You can do anything.”

Throughout the STEM Summit 2017, held on Friday, March 31 at West Campus, the message of Stanton’s welcoming words remained a theme. You can do anything … if only you put your mind to it.

Designed to bolster degree attainment and achievement within historically-underrepresented students, such as African-Americans, Hispanics and women, the conference served as an inspirational and educational resource. Participating students included members of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program and Central Florida STEM Alliance at Lake-Sumter State College, Seminole State College and Valencia.

With a keynote speaker, workshops, student poster presentations and an exhibitor showcase, students learned that — no matter their race, gender or background — they can excel in STEM. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Through a powerful keynote presentation by Kai Dupé, a technical trainer at Amazon Web Services, students learned just how difficult that journey can be. Speaking as a minority in the technology industry who endured his fair share of race-based condescension in his 25-year career, Kai explained, “Your success in STEM is less about your ability to solve problems and more about how people view you. This has been my life.”

To overcome this, Kai gave students three important tools: the power of now and mindfulness, the power of visualization and imagination and, finally, the power of affirmation. With these tools, he explained, we can succeed because “it doesn’t take a genius;” it takes someone with confidence who is willing to work hard.

Building on the energy of the morning, subsequent presentations focused on topics like networking, undergraduate research, graduate school, job opportunities, resume writing and interviewing. Presenters ranged from graduate students to employers in the field to professors, like Mathematics Professors Paul Flores and Lauren Thomas, who shared the value of networking, hard work and endurance.

In the end, many students left with a renewed passion for their fields and a positive outlook for the future. It will come as no surprise if many of these students emerge as leaders in their fields, breaking through racial and gender barriers and filling the need for a new generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

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