DePaul Center Promotes Women in STEM through Lecture Series

In advance of the Jeanne LaDuke Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Annual Lecture Series on Oct. 17, DWN Communications Team Member Dorothy Griggs visited the DePaul University STEM Center to find out about its history and role in the series. Read on to see what she learned.

STEMI recently had the pleasure of meeting with DePaul University STEM Center Director Lynn C. Narasimhan and Associate Director Victoria Simek. The STEM Center (formerly the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Center), has been in existence since July 2000 and is housed on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus at 990 W. Fullerton Ave. When the College of Science and Health separated from the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences in 2011, the center officially adopted its new name and continued its work providing universitywide programming in STEM disciplines, which include science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The History of STEM and the LaDuke Series

One of the many exciting things the STEM Center is responsible for is managing the annual Jeanne LaDuke Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Annual Lecture Series. The LaDuke Series is named after Jeanne LaDuke, associate professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics. This lecture series was created in 2005 by Dr. LaDuke’s colleagues, and Dr. LaDuke kicked off the series in May 2005 by presenting “Women Who Count: Pioneers in American Mathematics.”

When I inquired what it was about Dr. LaDuke that would compel her co-workers to create such a great offering on her behalf, Victoria responded that Dr. LaDuke was an exceptionally dedicated professor who was always willing to help her colleagues, and that she was very inspirational. While all of these attributes are admirable, I am inclined to believe that the operative word here is inspirational. Hopefully, all of us have been fortunate enough to have had teachers who inspired us. It is an intangible quality that not all possess, but similar to genius, you know when you are in its presence. And as a direct result of the LaDuke Lecture Series, Dr. LaDuke’s inspirational spirit will be felt for many years to come.

For this year’s guest speaker, the LaDuke Faculty Committee has invited Dr. Melissa Gilliam, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. Dr. Gilliam’s research focuses on populations that are at risk of poor reproductive health. Due to the complexity of the issue, Dr. Gilliam understood the importance of incorporating other disciplines in her research, and to that end has established The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3), as well as the Game Changer Design Lab at the University of Chicago.

This Year’s LaDuke Lecture

Now in its ninth year, the Jeanne LaDuke Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Annual Lecture Series will be held on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m., at the McGowan South, Room 108, 1110 W. Belden Ave. A reception will immediately follow. RSVPs are encouraged by emailing Victoria at vsimek@depaul.edu, but do not fret if you forget, just come on out and hear what Dr. Gilliam has to say about this important issue.

Prior to the lecture, there will be a special session for students interested in having the opportunity to have “face time” with Dr. Gilliam, and the chance to pose questions that are pertinent to their current studies and interests. This meeting will run for an hour, starting at 4:30 p.m., and will be held in McGowan South, Room 204. Refreshments will be served.

What’s Next for the STEM Center

In selecting speakers for the LaDuke Lecture Series, Victoria stated that the goal is to select local women from various disciplines. When I inquired whether the focus at the STEM Center was predominately on the women student population, Lynn informed me that the STEM Center supports both men and women equally in the STEM disciplines. She went on to share that she is currently teaching a course for middle school mathematics teachers and, among other things, is presenting them with a new paradigm of teaching to help change the mindset of their students from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. This course work is based on the research findings of Dr. Carol S. Dweck, and the objective is to supply teachers with the tools to help middle school students understand that they can be proficient in math if they persevere, even if math does not come easily to them, and even if they have been unsuccessful at math in the past.

That morning in the STEM Center as Lynn and Victoria spoke passionately about the work they do and the positive ramification of the research that is being done, their passion was palpable. Afterward, Lynn forwarded me a couple of her resources to read to further my understanding of her work. It was an honor to have had the unique opportunity to meet and talk at length with these two women. Opportunities such as these are, I believe, one of the great benefits of being a member of the DePaul Women’s Network.

But as all good things must come to an end, when the 15 minutes that I had initially requested quickly turned into 40, I bid a gracious good-bye. And as I stepped out of their building onto Fullerton and into the bright sunlit day, I must admit that I felt happy with the way the interview went, but mostly I felt inspired.

Dorothy Griggs is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is the department assistant for the Center for Students with Disabilities at DePaul University.

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