The Institute for Educational Leadership Launches Rise Up for Equity Campaign to Eliminate Barriers to Equity in Education and Workforce Development

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education and workforce

The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) announced the launch of Rise Up for Equity, a digital and grassroots campaign to prepare, support, and mobilize leaders to eliminate systemic barriers to equity in education and workforce development.
This so everyone – especially transition-age youth and families in communities with inequitable opportunities across the United States – has the opportunity to succeed and lead independent lives.

“IEL incentivizes communities to innovate and prepares and supports local and state leaders to improve opportunity and outcomes, and close gaps in access and achievement in education and workforce development in under-resourced communities,” said Johan Uvin, President of IEL. “To us, equity is about creating more opportunities for success in education and workforce development for children, youth, adults and families, particularly in communities where that opportunity is lacking due to systemic and structural reasons.”

IEL’s strategy intends to help alleviate poverty and its impact and to contribute to creating new gateways to prosperity. Today 15 million children, or 21 percent of all children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, and 51 percent of students across U.S. public schools are low income.[1] Childhood poverty is associated with negative outcomes in adulthood, such as lower academic achievement, employment rates, and poorer health.

For more information about how you can Rise Up for Equity to support leaders so all children, young adults, and communities can succeed, visit www.riseupforequity.com or join the conversation on social media using #RiseUpforEquity.

[1] According to the 2016 fact sheet of the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP)

Getting Girls Into STEM by Improving Education for Everyone
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Young girl in library reading textbook with the tree of knowledge growing out of the textbook with the caption

ByAsia A. Eaton, Psychology Today

Although women make up about half of the U.S. workforce, they have long been underrepresented in many STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Given that boys and girls perform similarly in STEM, this means a lot of STEM talent is being left untapped. Until we are successful at including diverse women and girls in STEM, we will be unable to address STEM labor shortages or stay globally competitive in research and development.

Our failure to include all available STEM talent in our workforce is even more dire for women of color. For example, Hispanic women represent 7 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but just 2 percent of STEM workers.

Various efforts have attempted to address these gender gaps in the last few decades, including the creation of STEM toys targeted at girls, large-scale research efforts, government funding, and afterschool programming. Despite this, the gaps haven’t narrowed as quickly as needed. In a 2022 review in the journal Social Issues and Policy Review, Drs. Sophie Kuchynka, Luis Rivera, and I explore (1) why these gaps persist and (2) ways to bridge them in K-12 education through policy and practice.

Why Do Gender Gaps in STEM Persist?
Features of the systems we live in and of our own social and psychological functioning serve to keep gender gaps in STEM alive.

1. Macrosystem influences.

Macrosystems, like our educational, economic, and justice systems, uphold gender stereotypes about the superiority of boys and men in STEM. STEM textbooks, for example, disproportionately portray male role models in STEM, sending the message that STEM is for boys. Further, system-justifying myths perpetuated in the media, such as the protestant work ethic and the myth of meritocracy, lead people to believe that the representation of men vs. women in STEM is just, and a result of differences in interest, aptitude, or hard work.

2. Microsystem influences.

The macrosystems we live in influence the smaller social systems closer to us (microsystems), like our families, schools, and peer groups. They also affect our individual psychology—how we see, interpret, and act on our social worlds.

Being raised in a world where STEM is associated with boys and men may implicitly lead parents to use less scientific language with daughters compared to sons, for example. It can also affect the amount of air time boys vs. girls get to work out their ideas in STEM classrooms. Eventually, these messages can be internalized by girls, negatively affecting their STEM self-image, interest, and participation.

How to Improve STEM Education for Everyone
Based on our review of macrosystem and microsystem factors that sustain gender-STEM inequities, we make several recommendations for K-12 STEM policy and practice to optimize success for all children.

In terms of practice, we recommend:

  • Classrooms be designed to promote relational and collaborative learning. Teachers should emphasize gender-inclusive classroom norms that promote positive working relations between girls and boys.
  • Classes should teach the history of gender inequality and bias so teachers and students can actively work to create equitable and inclusive STEM environments.
  • Teachers should encourage cooperation between children, and vary the roles students are assigned so they do not automatically adopt traditional gender roles in the classroom.
  • Teachers should promote active learning and growth mindset strategies. Cross-discipline evidence indicates that active learning, rooted in constructivist theories, is more beneficial in STEM education.
  • STEM should be reframed as helping students achieve communal goals through scientific collaboration. Emphasizing socially-meaningful aspects of STEM can help stimulate STEM interest in girls, because they tend to place more value on communal than dominance goals.
  • Classes can utilize near-peer mentorship programs, which pair students with similar mentors slightly more advanced than them. These near-peer mentors can be especially important for marginalized students who often feel isolated or excluded in STEM.
  • Schools should expand STEM evaluation metrics beyond traditional and standardized tests to include the assessment of skills like motivation, empathy, problem-solving, and adaptability, which are closely tied to positive educational outcomes.

Click here to read the full article on Psychology Today.

Meet Afro-Latina Scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel
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Dr. Jessica Esquivel

By Erica Nahmad, Be Latina

It’s undeniable that representation matters and the idea of what a scientist could or should look like is changing, largely thanks to pioneers like Afro-Latina scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel, who is breaking barriers for women in STEM one step at a time.

Dr. Esquivel isn’t just extraordinary because of what she is capable of as an Afro-Latina astrophysicist — she’s also extraordinary in her vulnerability and relatability. She’s on a mission to break barriers in science and to show the humanity behind scientists.

Dr. Esquivel makes science accessible to everyone, no matter what you look like or where you come from. As one of the only Afro-Latina scientists in her field, and one of the only women who looked like her to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, Dr. Esquivel knows a thing or two about the importance of representation, especially in STEM fields and science labs.

Women make up only 28% of the science, technology, engineering, and math workforce in the U.S. Those disparities are even more severe when you start to look at minority populations.

“When you start looking at the intersections of race and gender and then even sexuality, those numbers drop significantly,” Esquivel told CBS Chicago. “There are only about 100 to 150 black women with their Ph.D. in physics in the country!”

Fighting against the isolation of uniqueness
Dr. Jessica Esquivel recalls being a nontraditional student and being “the only” when she entered graduate school for physics — the only woman in her class, the only Black, the only Mexican, the only lesbian — and all of that made her feel very isolated.

“On top of such rigorous material, the isolation and otherness that happens due to being the only or one of few is an added burden marginalized people, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, have to deal with,” Dr. Esquivel told BeLatina in an email interview. On top of feeling like an outsider, isolation was also consuming. “Being away from family at a predominately white institution, where the number of microaggressions was constant, really affected my mental health and, in turn, my coursework and research, so it was important to surround myself with mentors who supported me and believed in my ability to be a scientist.”

While she anticipated that the physics curriculum would be incredibly challenging, she was definitely not prepared for how hard the rest of the experience would be and how it would impact her as a student and a scientist.

The challenges she faced professionally and personally made her realize early on just how crucial representation is in academia and all fields, but especially in STEM. “It was really impactful for me to learn that there were other Black women who had made it out of the grad school metaphorical trenches. It’s absolutely important to create inclusive spaces where marginalized people, including Black, Latina, and genderqueer people, can thrive,” she said.

“The secrets of our universe don’t discriminate, these secrets can and should be unraveled by all those who wish to embark on that journey, and my aim is to clear as many barriers and leave these physics spaces better than I entered them.”

When inclusion and equal opportunities are the ultimate goal
Dr. Jessica Esquivel isn’t just dedicating her time and energy to studying complex scientific concepts — think quantum entanglement, space-time fabric, the building blocks of the universe… some seriously abstract physics concepts straight out of a sci-fi movie, as she explains. On top of her research, she put in so much extra work to show people, especially younger generations of women of color, that the physics and STEM world is not some old white man’s club where this prestigious knowledge is only available to them. Dr. Esquivel is an expert in her field; she knows things that no one else currently knows and has the ability and the power to transfer that knowledge to others and pass it down to others. There is a place for everyone, including people who look like her, in the STEM world, and she’s on a mission to inspire others while working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM space.

“Many of us who are underrepresented in STEM have taken on the responsibility of spearheading institutional change toward more just, equitable, and inclusive working environments as a form of survival,” she explains. “I’m putting in more work on top of the research I do because I recognize that I do better research if I feel supported and if I feel like I can bring my whole self to my job. My hope is that one day Black and brown women and gender-queer folks interested in science can pursue just that and not have to fight for their right to be a scientist or defend that they are worthy of doing science.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Lack of women in hi-tech is a ‘vicious issue’ that must be solved – Female execs.
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diverse students looking at computer screen in a college classroom environment with female execs

By Zachy Hennessey, The Jerusalem Post

“Let’s start by establishing that hi-tech is really the best place for women,” began Dorit Dor, Chief Product Officer for Check Point, during a panel at Tuesday night’s first inaugural Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit from The Jerusalem Post and WE (Women’s Entrepreneurship). During the event, executives from throughout the hi-tech industry gathered to share their knowledge and experience with female entrepreneurs across the country.

Dor elaborated on the juxtaposition between the many good opportunities for women in hi-tech and the relative lack of their presence in the sector. “As well as learning technology, it’s the best opportunity for getting paid,” she said. “It’s the best opportunity for life balance because you could work from home in all the hi-tech industry, it’s the best for every reason you could think of to work in high tech – and still very few select this.”

“We have an issue,” she continued, and explained why she believes the current branding of hi-tech is repulsive for diverse groups of workers. “For example, in cyber, you wear a hoodie and drink a lot of coke, or the men doing it in high school are not socially acceptable,” she said. These impressions make women fearful that they wouldn’t be socially accepted if they were in the industry, Dor suggested.

Besides problematic branding, the hi-tech industry offers several other hurdles for women, explained Dor, including the requirement to “opt in” in order to achieve success and the need to loudly self-advocate for themselves. “Usually, women don’t do this very well,” she said.

In an effort to correct these issues, Check Point runs initiatives helping young kids choose hi-tech and mentoring women to speak up for themselves and pursue promotion. “In the end, if you had a whole list of [mid-level employees] that are women, maybe that would help as well,” she said.

“Cyber security is obviously one of the biggest trends in the Israeli eco-system, as attackers become more sophisticated, so will our solutions be more effective and comprehensive,” said Badian.

“Half of all engineers in Microsoft Israel R&D are focused on cyber security products and bring innovation to that field, so we can be prepared for the threats of the future,” she added.

“Another big trend we see on the rise is climate tech, I’m confident we will see the Israeli entrepreneurial spirit tackle this important issue and we hope to see more and more technological solutions for what might be one of the biggest challenges facing us all,” she concluded.

Investment in women isn’t doing well
Yifat Oron is the senior managing director at Blackstone, a hi-tech investment firm with $941 billion in assets under management. She elaborated on the current shortage of investment in female entrepreneurs, which isn’t doing gangbusters, to say the least.

“$330b. invested in tech by VCs last year – what’s the percentage invested in women entrepreneurs? Two percent,” Oron remarked. “A little less bad is the amount of money invested in companies that have women in the founding team: 16%. It’s still very bad.”

By means of explanation, Oron indicated that the lack of investment in women stems from a lack of female investors.

“The statistics are not glamorous at all. It’s [something like] 15% of general partners [GPs] are women,” she said, while acknowledging that even as little as 10 years ago, these numbers wouldn’t be as “high” – in this sense, some progress has been made. Regardless, she pointed out, “If we’re not going to have GPs that are women, we’re not going to have entrepreneurs that are women.”

To help female entrepreneurship along, Oron explained that “Blackstone – as did most older investment firms – had to do some work to elevate the number of women investors, because this is a very much a men-led business.”

As such, Blackstone has made an effort to train and hire women, launch mentorship programs and invest in hi-tech awareness in high schools. These efforts have been fairly effective.

“Half of our incoming class this year of new employees are women; hopefully most of them are going to stay throughout their careers with us,” Oron said. Last year, Blackstone invested $10b. in women-led companies.

These successes are not just happenstance, however.

“It’s not happening just because it’s happening,” noted Oron. “We’re doing a lot of work, and everybody here who is employing people needs to take charge and make sure they spend a lot of energy on that as well.”

She concluded with a note regarding the importance of female representation in the business hierarchy. “If you want to be able to do the right thing, you have to have a well-balanced leadership,” she said.

“Not necessarily just CEOs; you have to have a lot of women represented well across every single layer of the organization. Research has shown that heterogeneous leadership and boards perform better than homogeneous ones. It’s pretty simple.”

Click here to read the full article on The Jerusalem Post.

Can Virtual Reality Help Autistic Children Navigate the Real World?
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Mr. Ravindran adjusts his son’s VR headset between lessons. “It was one of the first times I’d seen him do pretend play like that,” Mr. Ravindran said of the time when his son used Google Street View through a headset, then went into his playroom and acted out what he had experienced in VR. “It ended up being a light bulb moment.

By Gautham Nagesh, New York Times

This article is part of Upstart, a series on young companies harnessing new science and technology.

Vijay Ravindran has always been fascinated with technology. At Amazon, he oversaw the team that built and started Amazon Prime. Later, he joined the Washington Post as chief digital officer, where he advised Donald E. Graham on the sale of the newspaper to his former boss, Jeff Bezos, in 2013.

By late 2015, Mr. Ravindran was winding down his time at the renamed Graham Holdings Company. But his primary focus was his son, who was then 6 years old and undergoing therapy for autism.

“Then an amazing thing happened,” Mr. Ravindran said.

Mr. Ravindran was noodling around with a virtual reality headset when his son asked to try it out. After spending 30 minutes using the headset in Google Street View, the child went to his playroom and started acting out what he had done in virtual reality.

“It was one of the first times I’d seen him do pretend play like that,” Mr. Ravindran said. “It ended up being a light bulb moment.”

Like many autistic children, Mr. Ravindran’s son struggled with pretend play and other social skills. His son’s ability to translate his virtual reality experience to the real world sparked an idea. A year later, Mr. Ravindran started a company called Floreo, which is developing virtual reality lessons designed to help behavioral therapists, speech therapists, special educators and parents who work with autistic children.

The idea of using virtual reality to help autistic people has been around for some time, but Mr. Ravindran said the widespread availability of commercial virtual reality headsets since 2015 had enabled research and commercial deployment at much larger scale. Floreo has developed almost 200 virtual reality lessons that are designed to help children build social skills and train for real world experiences like crossing the street or choosing where to sit in the school cafeteria.

Last year, as the pandemic exploded demand for telehealth and remote learning services, the company delivered 17,000 lessons to customers in the United States. Experts in autism believe the company’s flexible platform could go global in the near future.

That’s because the demand for behavioral and speech therapy as well as other forms of intervention to address autism is so vast. Getting a diagnosis for autism can take months — crucial time in a child’s development when therapeutic intervention can be vital. And such therapy can be costly and require enormous investments of time and resources by parents.

The Floreo system requires an iPhone (version 7 or later) and a V.R. headset (a low-end model costs as little as $15 to $30), as well as an iPad, which can be used by a parent, teacher or coach in-person or remotely. The cost of the program is roughly $50 per month. (Floreo is currently working to enable insurance reimbursement, and has received Medicaid approval in four states.)

A child dons the headset and navigates the virtual reality lesson, while the coach — who can be a parent, teacher, therapist, counselor or personal aide — monitors and interacts with the child through the iPad.

The lessons cover a wide range of situations, such as visiting the aquarium or going to the grocery store. Many of the lessons involve teaching autistic children, who may struggle to interpret nonverbal cues, to interpret body language.

Autistic self-advocates note that behavioral therapy to treat autism is controversial among those with autism, arguing that it is not a disease to be cured and that therapy is often imposed on autistic children by their non-autistic parents or guardians. Behavioral therapy, they say, can harm or punish children for behaviors such as fidgeting. They argue that rather than conditioning autistic people to act like neurotypical individuals, society should be more welcoming of them and their different manner of experiencing the world.

“A lot of the mismatch between autistic people and society is not the fault of autistic people, but the fault of society,” said Zoe Gross, the director of advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “People should be taught to interact with people who have different kinds of disabilities.”

Mr. Ravindran said Floreo respected all voices in the autistic community, where needs are diverse. He noted that while Floreo was used by many behavioral health providers, it had been deployed in a variety of contexts, including at schools and in the home.

“The Floreo system is designed to be positive and fun, while creating positive reinforcement to help build skills that help acclimate to the real world,” Mr. Ravindran said.

In 2017, Floreo secured a $2 million fast track grant from the National Institutes of Health. The company is first testing whether autistic children will tolerate headsets, then conducting a randomized control trial to test the method’s usefulness in helping autistic people interact with the police.

Early results have been promising: According to a study published in the Autism Research journal (Mr. Ravindran was one of the authors), 98 percent of the children completed their lessons, quelling concerns about autistic children with sensory sensitivities being resistant to the headsets.

Ms. Gross said she saw potential in virtual reality lessons that helped people rehearse unfamiliar situations, such as Floreo’s lesson on crossing the street. “There are parts of Floreo to get really excited about: the airport walk through, or trick or treating — a social story for something that doesn’t happen as frequently in someone’s life,” she said, adding that she would like to see a lesson for medical procedures.

However, she questioned a general emphasis by the behavioral therapy industry on using emerging technologies to teach autistic people social skills.

A second randomized control trial using telehealth, conducted by Floreo using another N.I.H. grant, is underway, in hopes of showing that Floreo’s approach is as effective as in-person coaching.

But it was those early successes that convinced Mr. Ravindran to commit fully to the project.

“There were just a lot of really excited people.,” he said. “When I started showing families what we had developed, people would just give me a big hug. They would start crying that there was someone working on such a high-tech solution for their kids.”

Clinicians who have used the Floreo system say the virtual reality environment makes it easier for children to focus on the skill being taught in the lessons, unlike in the real world where they might be overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.

Celebrate the Children, a nonprofit private school in Denville, N.J., for children with autism and related challenges, hosted one of the early pilots for Floreo; Monica Osgood, the school’s co-founder and executive director, said the school had continued to use the system.

Click here to read the full article on New York Times.

Wells Fargo Foundation Aims to Grow Diverse Housing Developers with $40 Million Donation
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Real estate developers Dr. Gina Merritt and Julissa Carielo join the Wells Fargo Foundation Growing Diverse Housing Developers program. (Photo: Wells Fargo)

By Businesswire

The roughly $175 billion U.S. housing development market is known for high barriers to entry — and today, real estate developers of color make up less than five percent of the industry. To help address this gap, the Wells Fargo Foundation announced Growing Diverse Housing Developers, a $40 million grant initiative focused on expanding the growth and success of real estate developers of color, including Black- and Latino-owned firms.

Launched in collaboration with Capital Impact Partners, Low Income Investment Fund, or LIIF, Raza Development Fund, or RDF, and Reinvestment Fund, Growing Diverse Housing Developers aims to increase the supply of homes that are affordable across the country. Working together, these four Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, have selected 39 developers of color to take part in the four-year program. Participants will have access to lower-cost, flexible capital, as well as the training, mentors and resources needed to accelerate the production of multifamily and mixed-use housing development projects.

“We want to increase racial equity in real estate development, ultimately creating a more inclusive housing ecosystem,” said Bill Daley, vice chairman of Public Affairs at Wells Fargo. “One stark reality is that people of color are significantly underfunded and underrepresented in the real estate industry. Through Growing Diverse Housing Developers, we can help strengthen diverse housing developers, enabling them to grow their businesses, and at the same time, offer communities more affordable options for renters and homeowners.”

“This program confronts the systemic barriers that have kept developers of color behind many of their peers — barriers that have also limited the ability for communities of color to thrive,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance. “We are proud to work with Wells Fargo, LIIF, Reinvestment Fund, and RDF to help both the people who will develop projects in communities across the United States and the community members who will further benefit from many of those same projects.”

“With this program, we can amplify Latino-led housing developers who too often do not have the support they need to succeed. And in doing so, we can increase the amount of quality housing developments across the U.S,” said Tommy Espinoza, CEO of Raza Development Fund, the nation’s largest Latino-serving CDFI. “Homeownership is key for communities of color because it creates stability for the family and is the quickest way to own an asset. We’re proud to work with Wells Fargo to create better opportunities for our communities.”

2022 program participants selected by coalition of mission-driven CDFIs

Through a $30 million grant from Wells Fargo, Capital Impact Partners joined forces with LIIF and Reinvestment Fund to create a national learning cohort of 27 housing developers (PDF), both nonprofit and for-profit, who are based out of California, Georgia, Texas, and the Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., metropolitan regions. The developers will have access to capital and resources to advance their development pipelines and grow their business, including capacity-building grants funded by Wells Fargo, and more than $100 million in additional funding the CDFIs have committed toward innovative loan products.

“We don’t just build houses – we build communities where people want to live and can attain the best futures possible,” said Dr. Gina Merritt, principal of Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures, LLC based in Washington D.C., and founder of Project Community Capital. Merritt is taking part in the Growing Diverse Housing Developers program and specializes in projects that provide residents with access to employment and health services, childcare, community spaces, and other support services. “We use social capital to identify, qualify, and train residents from underestimated communities with RTA – reliability, trustworthiness, and ambition. Everyone deserves a decent, safe place to live and access to economic opportunity.”

J. Tommy Espinoza Growing Diverse Housing Developers Fellowship

With a $10 million grant from Wells Fargo, RDF launched the J. Tommy Espinoza Growing Diverse Housing Developers Fellowship, a four-year professional development program for Latino and Black-led real estate firms. The fellowship is comprised of 12 developers, including UnidosUS affiliates and other non-profits, who are already building and preserving multifamily rental housing and for-sale development projects across the country. The fellows will receive access to capital and mentoring, and will convene at least quarterly for learning sessions provided by RDF and the Council of Development Finance Agencies.

Julissa Carielo, construction entrepreneur and J. Tommy Espinoza GDHD fellow, co-founded DreamOn Development Company in San Antonio to “build things that matter,” including mixed-use housing projects that also bring jobs, businesses, and services to underutilized areas. As one of the few Latina business owners in her field, Carielo says the RDF fellowship program “will provide invaluable funding for development projects, and connections to developers from all over the country that have a vested interest in creating more housing and transforming communities.”

About Capital Impact Partners

Through capital and commitment, Capital Impact Partners helps people build communities of opportunity that break barriers to success. We work to champion key issues of equity and social and economic justice by deploying mission-driven financing, capacity-building programs, and impact investing opportunities. A nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution, Capital Impact has disbursed more than $2.5 billion since 1982. In 2020, Capital Impact launched a new enterprise with CDC Small Business Finance under one leadership team and national strategy to reinvent traditional and mainstream financial systems. Our goal is to ensure these systems equitably serve communities of color to drive community-led solutions that support economic mobility and wealth creation. Our leadership in delivering financial and social impact has resulted in Capital Impact being rated by S&P Global and recognized by Aeris for our performance. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Capital Impact Partners operates nationally, with local offices in Austin, Texas, Detroit, Michigan, New York, and Oakland, California.

About Raza Development Fund

Founded in 1999 as a support corporation of UnidosUS, formerly known as National Council of La Raza (NCLR), RDF provides access to capital and financing solutions to non-profits, UnidosUS affiliates, and other Latino serving organizations across the country with the mission of breaking the cycle of poverty in low-income communities. Since its inception, RDF has provided organizations serving Latino and poor families in 38 states with technical assistance and financings in excess of $1 billion, which have leveraged over $5 billion in private and public capital for education, childcare, affordable housing, social services projects and, most recently, small businesses. Headquartered in Phoenix, AZ, RDF lends nationwide and has offices in Seattle, New York City, Texas, and Florida.

Click here to read the full article on Businesswire.

How a NASA-Supported Robotics Program Is Preparing Students for STEM Careers
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In the robotics program, Kindergarteners in North Dakota work on a robotics activity that uses Ozobots. In some Hawaii schools, students use VEX robots to learn robotics concepts and to help prepare them for STEM careers.

By Lauraine Langreo, Education Week

Hawaii is trying to prepare its K-12 students to fill the massive shortages of jobs in STEM-related fields.

The Hawaii Space Grant Consortium, a community educational program supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has partnered with schools across the state to implement robotics in the classroom.

“We’re trying to build this pipeline from K-12 and eventually have the students go on to college to build robotics or satellites, and eventually, hopefully, work at NASA as engineers,” said Adria Fung, robotics engineering education specialist at the consortium, during a session at the 2022 International Society for Technology in Education conference.

Fung created a robotics curriculum that schools across the state are using to prepare students for the STEM workforce. The Hawaii Space Grant Consortium provides lesson plans, resources, and support for the teachers so that they’re easily able to implement the curriculum into their classroom.

The curriculum is based on VEX IQ robots and is aimed at grades 4 through 8. Using the robots, educators can teach students robotics engineering concepts such as gear ratios, speed, and torque.

Fung, who formerly taught at a middle school and led a robotics competition team, developed the robotics curriculum after she realized that when robotics concepts are only taught during after-school robotics clubs, then not as many students are introduced to the material and the ones who do not understand the underlying concepts of robotics as well.

“Students just want to build and test and code and refine their robots, but without any kind of concepts or knowledge,” Fung said.

“There’s not a lot of teaching time after school,” she added. “So that’s why I try to use the classroom time to teach the robotics engineering concepts so they can implement it in their competition robots after school if they choose to.”

The curriculum is not just for STEM educators. It’s designed so that teachers from all subject areas will be able to implement robotics into their classrooms easily, Fung said.

“Whether they teach math, or social studies, or English, [they] can easily apply robotics into those fields,” she said.

For example, for social studies in Hawaii, students are learning about the history of voyaging and about a canoe called Hōkūleʻa that traveled the world using only traditional navigation techniques.

Click here to read the full article on Education Week.

FAA Launches ‘Be ATC’ Campaign to Recruit Next Diverse Generation of Air Traffic Controllers
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air traffic controller

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is launching “Be ATC,” a recruiting campaign to hire the next generation of air traffic controllers. The application window will be open nationwide from June 24-27 for all eligible U.S. citizens.

Air traffic controllers are part of the FAA’s fast-paced, active team of 14,000 professionals in radar facilities and in air traffic control towers who keep the skies safe across the nation. Controllers have a tremendous responsibility, handling an average of 45,000 flights a day and more than 5,000 aircraft traversing the skies at once during peak times.

Anyone interested in becoming an air traffic controller can view more about eligibility requirements and application instructions at faa.gov/be-atc. Applicants can begin building a profile and learn how to apply.

Building on last year’s successful campaign to receive more applications from women and other underrepresented groups, the FAA will again work with diverse organizations, host Instagram Live conversations, and work with social media influencers and others. The FAA has created a digital toolkit to get the word out.

“We know that different perspectives add value to any organization, so it is important that we attract people with a wide range of backgrounds to help enhance our safety mission,” said Virginia Boyle, Vice President for System Operations Services in the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.

“It’s a challenging job, but it’s also rewarding. At the end of the day when you get home and look up at the sky, you know that what you’ve done makes a difference,” said Jeffrey Vincent, Vice President for Air Traffic Services in the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, speak English clearly and be no older than 30 (with limited exceptions). They must have either three years of general work experience or four years of education leading to a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of both. Applicants must also pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA). Individuals who are selected are also required to pass all pre-employment requirements, including a medical examination, security investigation, and drug test.

Selected candidates will train at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. After successful completion of training, they will be placed in a radar facility or air traffic tower. Staffing needs will determine facility assignment, and applicants must be willing to work anywhere in the United States.

“As aerospace technology continues to grow, we need people to join the FAA to ensure our airspace continues to be the safest in the world,” said FAA Deputy Administrator A. Bradley Mims. “We are looking for a diverse pool of candidates who are ready to rise to the challenge and become air traffic controllers.”

The FAA’s controller workforce reached about 14,000 in fiscal year 2021. The FAA hired 509 new controllers in fiscal year 2021, and the FAA plans to hire more than 4,800 controllers over the next five years.

Mayim Bialik: Going Full STEAM Ahead
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Mayim Bialik collage of pictures

By Brady Rhoades

Mayim Bialik, best known as the current host of Jeopardy! and as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in the smash series The Big Bang Theory, is an honest-to-goodness Renaissance woman.

She’s a neuroscientist, a mother, an animal rights activist and mental health advocate.

An author, actor, game show host and, with the release this spring of As They Made Us, a movie director.

And she’s not done yet.

The Renaissance Woman

In the tradition of Renaissance women from all eras, Bialik is ever diversifying her ambitions, her skill-set, her scope. They’re grounded in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Bialik said she didn’t take to science until her teens, when a tutor helped her build a model of a cell out of Styrofoam.

“I could touch that Styrofoam cell,” she told ScienceNewsforStudents. “It was just amazing. It was amazing that it thrilled me the way looking at art thrilled me.”

Nowadays, she added, “I try to put a positive face on STEM and a female face in STEM.”

Bialik, 46, who is modern Orthodox Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, earned a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience and a doctor of philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA. Her dissertation was titled, “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome.” We’ll break that down later.

The Cast Of “The Big Bang Theory” Places Their Handprints In The Cement At The TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX Forecourt held on May 1, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

She started her acting career as a teen, with roles in Pumpkinhead and Beaches, as well as guest appearances on The Facts of Life, Beauty and the Beast and Webster. In 1994, she earned a major role in Woody Allen’s comedy film, Don’t Drink the Water. She also played the title character of the NBC sitcom, Blossom.

She worked steadily in Hollywood for the next decade before landing her role on The Big Bang Theory, in which she played Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler. She was nominated for Emmy awards in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2017.

In 2021, it was announced that Bialik would host the primetime version of Jeopardy! After Mike Richards stepped down from hosting the syndicated version of the show, Bialik started hosting that version, too, sharing duties with Ken Jennings. Moving forward, it’s unclear how producers will handle the hosting situation, but Bialik said it’s a joy working on the show.

“One of my biggest challenges is I’m so impressed that people know the answers that they’ve asked me to tone down how excited I am when people get them right, which I think is a great note to get,” she told Daily Beast.

Advancing STEAM Through Activism

She also hosts a podcast, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, that focuses on debunking the misconceptions surrounding mental health and neurodivergence with the help of friends, guest experts and media personalities.

Bialik is a vegan and a founding member of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, a Jewish organization that advocates for the ethical treatment of animals.

Another cause close to her heart is increasing opportunities for girls and women to pursue STEAM educations and careers.

Actress Mayim Bialik attends Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) fundraising telecast in Hollywood
Actress Mayim Bialik attends Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) fundraising telecast in Hollywood. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/ABC, Inc via Getty Images)
“It’s an incredibly enlightening way to view the world once you’ve been trained in STEM,” Bialik has said. “It’s a smart career choice, and it’s a creative and exciting lifestyle to be a scientist.”

Bialik has written books — such as Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular — geared toward empowering girls and women, partnered with toy companies to create STEAM-friendly toys for girls and teamed with DeVry University and the HerWorld Initiative to get high school girls excited about STEAM, among other ventures.

“I love encouraging young women to embrace the sciences,” she has said.

What’s her advice to parents and counselors?

“Educate ourselves by using the resources in libraries and online to find new ways to understand our world. Also, encouraging kids to see the hidden STEM opportunities all around them. When we cook or bake, it’s math and chemistry. When we observe weather patterns or even changes in our body, these are all wonders of the STEM awareness kids naturally have!”

Bucking the Stereotypes

Remember her dissertation? In case you scientists, or budding scientists, are wondering what “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome” means, here’s a breakdown: Abstract Prader–Willi Syndrome is a neurogenetic disorder that causes obesity. The hypothalamus regulates aspects of the nervous system. “Satiety” refers to satiated, or absence of hunger. So Bialik was intrigued by the links between the nervous system, consumption behaviors and obesity in those who deal with Prader–Willi Syndrome.

A mouthful, for sure. But interesting, yes?

The cast of Blossom pose for a portrait
The cast of Blossom pose for a portrait. (Pictured L-R: Finola Hughes, Mayim Bialik, Joey Lawrence, Jenna Von Oy, Courtney Chase and Ted Wass) (Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images)
Bialik, it seems, bucks easy, simplistic stereotypes, intersecting her social, emotional passions and strengths with the two roles she’s most famous for: actor and scientist.

Has the film she’s directed furthered that tendency? That’s up to viewers to decide, as is a thumbs-up-or-down.

The movie centers on a divorced mother juggling her family’s needs and her own quest for love. Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen and Simon Helberg star.

“It’s very vulnerable,” she told TV and radio host Ryan Seacrest. “It’s not an autobiography, but it’s totally things that are based on my life and some things did happen and other things didn’t and… here we go!”

Here’s a passage from film critic Christy Lemire’s review in RogerEbert.com: “As They Made Us is most effective in its gentle, intimate, everyday moments, and Bialik mercifully refrains from melodrama…”

Lemire continues, saying the film is clearly a personal debut effort for Bialik, but she shows enough confidence behind the camera to make you curious about whatever other stories she has to tell.”

Which provokes, for Bialik fans, a pressing question: What’s her next chapter?

Airbnb’s Billionaire CEO Is Giving The Obama Foundation $100 Million For Travel-Focused College Scholarships
LinkedIn
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaks onstage during “Introducing Trips” Reveal at Airbnb Open LA on November 17, 2016, in Los Angeles.

By Rachel Sandler, Forbes

Airbnb’s billionaire cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky is making his biggest philanthropic donation so far: a $100 million pledge to former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s charitable foundation for an initiative that links education and travel. The funds will go toward scholarships for college students pursuing careers in public service, according to an announcement from the Obama Foundation on Monday. The program, called the Voyager Scholarship, is intended to relieve students of college debt, enable them to travel and expand their horizons—and provide them with mentors.

The two-year program will provide students with up to $25,000 in financial aid for their junior and senior years of college. Recipients will also be given $10,000 and free Airbnb housing to go on a “summer voyage” where students will design their own work-travel program to “gain exposure to new communities.”

It doesn’t end there. For a decade after graduation, students will get $2,000 per year on Airbnb to travel where they wish and “forge new connections throughout their public service careers.” The first cohort of Voyager scholars will include 100 students.

“If we want this next generation of leaders to be able to do what they need to do, they have to meet each other. They have to know each other. They have to understand each other’s communities,” the former president says in a video announcing the scholarship.

Chesky, who Forbes estimates is worth $9 billion, will donate the $100 million for the Voyager Scholarship over a period of five years to the Obama Foundation, which will be in charge of the program.

The goal of the scholarship is to open the world to young leaders who would normally be too cash-strapped to travel. “There are young people across the country who have a passion for public service, but can’t pursue it because of their student loan debt. We want to help reduce that burden,” Chesky says in the video announcement.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Snapchat co-founder pays off college debt of new graduates at L.A. art and design school
LinkedIn
More than 200 graduates of Otis College of Arts and Design react to the surprise announcement Sunday that their college debts will be paid off by snapchat founder

By Teresa WatanabeRachel Uranga

Yaritza Velazquez-Medina took a chance on a major career turn when she decided to drop her work as a crisis counselor in 2018 to pursue her artistic passions. She enrolled at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles to become a graphic designer — even though she racked up about $70,000 in college debt to do so.

But after she crossed the stage Sunday to receive her diploma at commencement ceremonies, she and 284 other graduates in the Class of 2022 received stunning news: Their college debt would be completely paid off through the largest donation in the school’s century-old history by Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife, Miranda Kerr, who is founder of the beauty company Kora.

Charles Hirschhorn, Otis president, made the announcement during the commencement ceremony at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, drawing gasps and cheers from the audience. Some graduates hugged, cried and jumped for joy.

“I’m speechless,” Velazquez-Medina said, tears streaming from her eyes.

Spiegel — whose creation of the popular instant messaging app with two former Stanford University classmates made him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015 — took summer classes at Otis during high school.

“It changed my life and made me feel at home,” Spiegel told the graduating class. “I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together.”

Spiegel and Kerr are founders of The Spiegel Family Fund. They said in a statement that the college is “an extraordinary institution that encourages young creatives to find their artistic voices and thrive in a variety of industries and careers.

“It is a privilege for our family to give back and support the Class of 2022, and we hope this gift will empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”

The donation comes as student loan debt has soared in the last few decades, driven by rising college costs and less public funding to cover them. More than 43 million Americans owe the federal government $1.6 trillion — an average $37,000 per person — making up the biggest share of consumer debt in the U.S. after mortgages.

In California alone, 3.8 million residents owe $141.8 billion, the largest share of any state. Those struggling most with crushing debt are disproportionately students who are low-income, underrepresented minorities and the first in their families to attend college.

The financial burden is harming mental health, delaying marriages, preventing home ownership and discouraging new businesses, researchers have found. The widespread effects are intensifying pressure on the Biden administration to craft a student debt relief plan; one proposal under consideration is federal forgiveness of at least $10,000 in debt for people making less than $125,000 a year.

The crisis has also prompted some donors to pay off student loan debt. In 2019, billionaire Robert Smith made national headlines when he announced he would cover the loan debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse College by donating $34 million to the historically Black men’s school in Atlanta.

Hirschhorn did not disclose the size of the Spiegel family gift but said it surpassed the college’s previous largest gift of $10 million. Spiegel and Kerr offered their historic donation after Hirschhorn told them the college wanted to award the couple honorary degrees and invited them as commencement speakers this year. The couple was not available for an interview.

Click here to read the full article on Los Angeles Times.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. 44th Annual BDPA National Conference
    August 18, 2022 - August 20, 2022
  4. Diversity Alliance for Science (DA4S) West Coast Conference
    August 30, 2022 - September 1, 2022
  5. Diversity Alliance for Science (DA4S) Matchmaking Events
    September 1, 2022
  6. Commercial UAV Expo Americas
    September 6, 2022 - September 8, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. 44th Annual BDPA National Conference
    August 18, 2022 - August 20, 2022
  4. Diversity Alliance for Science (DA4S) West Coast Conference
    August 30, 2022 - September 1, 2022
  5. Diversity Alliance for Science (DA4S) Matchmaking Events
    September 1, 2022
  6. Commercial UAV Expo Americas
    September 6, 2022 - September 8, 2022