5 Reasons to Make a School Field Trip to Alcatraz East Crime Museum a Priority
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Students walking upstairs to the crime musem in Alcatraz East

Students today live during a time when crime in their communities reaches into their schools through bullying and violence and follows them online. Yet there can be teachable moments, to take advantage of interests in science or solving puzzles, to show students ways to make a difference. Alcatraz East Crime Museum, located in Pigeon Forge, plays an important role in helping students understand more about the societal factors that contribute to crime, and the judicial system that both protects and enforces consequences.

“Alcatraz East is a great place to bring school students for a field trip,” explains Rachael Penman, director of artifacts and exhibits at Alcatraz East Crime Museum. “The more they can learn about crime history, crime prevention, and the judicial system, we can hopefully encourage positive choices.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no one factor that causes school violence. However, they advise that preventing school violence requires addressing factors at all levels of the social ecology. They report that preventing school violence requires understanding the factors that influence it.

The CDC has created a four-level social-ecological model that can better help students understand violence and the effect of potential strategies. The four areas include learning about crime risks and prevention in relation to the individual, relationships, community, and societal factors.

Here are 5 reasons why Alcatraz East makes a great school field trip:

  • Alcatraz East helps fit the model for crime prevention that the CDC promotes to help prevent violence. Students who take a field trip to the museum will learn about crime, crime prevention, and consequences for those who commit crimes.
  • While touring the museum they will learn about some of the most high profile criminal cases in the country’s history. The information presented will help them learn what societal factors may have contributed to an increased crime risk.
  • Understanding how the judicial system works in America is important, and the museum gives students a hands-on approach to learning about it. They will learn about being in law enforcement and crime scene investigation.
  • Students who visit Alcatraz East Crime Museum will gain more information about crime prevention and may be able to use that information to make themselves and their schools safer.
  • Taking a field trip to the museum gives teachers and group leaders the perfect opening for an in-depth discussion on crime prevention. They can go back to the classroom and go more in depth with new things they’ve learned at the museum.

“Rather than simply talking to students about crime issues, our museum gives them a chance to make a connection,” added Penman. “Many students are visual or hands-on learners, which fits well with our many exhibits. We offer many learning opportunities that will help students gain a better understanding of the consequences of crime and hopefully inspire careers in forensic science and law enforcement.”

The museum will also be celebrating National STEM Day on November 8, 2019. The museum offers students a chance to explore STEM-related exhibits. Those interested in participating in a field trip for their students or scouts should contact the museum for group rate information.

The museum also offers a variety of specialty programs for homeschoolers and scouting groups, including:

  • Science! What does science have to do with a crime museum? From toxicology to fingerprints, Alcatraz East is the place to learn all about forensic science. Forensic science applications, such as latent fingerprint examination, are being taught in schools as early as 6th grade. Students can even get to learn all about these applications from a local forensic expert with national experience, Art Bohanan. You can even earn a badge with Alcatraz East’s Girl Scout programs. Forensic science abounds at the Museum!
  • Students will get up close and personal with counterfeit items the museum’s Counterfeit Crimes gallery. The display includes counterfeit games, toys, clothing items and electronics in order to educate visitors on the effects and dangers of buying and aiding in the sale of counterfeit items.
  • Go on a deep dive into the judicial branch of government top to bottom. Hear about local law enforcement all the way up to the Supreme Court. Do you remember your high school government class? The Museum helps students navigate our judicial process through famous cases and an in-depth look at the rule of law.
  • Get a taste of the consequence of crime. Follow the process from start to finish, from a line-up, to the court room, to a jail cell. Students will immerse themselves in it all and can contemplate life choices in a life-size replica of a modern jail cell.
  • Social media safety tips are placed throughout the museum, each teaching students the importance of not only staying safe while out in the community, but staying safe online. You might want to tell everyone on social media you and your family are taking a Smoky Mountains vacation, but should you?

The museum is always adding to its collection and has a star-studded panel of experts who make up the Advisory Board, including those in law enforcement, collectors, a medical examiner, crime scene investigators, and others. The board includes Jim Willett, a retired prison warden, Anthony Rivera, a combat veteran and Navy SEAL chief, and Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who is best known for the Casey Anthony trial. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: www.alcatrazeast.com.

About Alcatraz East

Alcatraz East is the most arresting crime museum in the United States. Guests of all ages can encounter a unique journey into the history of American crime, crime solving, and our justice system. Through interactive exhibits and original artifacts, Alcatraz East is an entertaining and educational experience for all ages – so much fun it’s a crime! This family attraction is located at the entrance of The Island, located at 2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN. General admission tickets are $14.95 for children, $24.95 for adults. Group ticket sales are available. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.

Source:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing School Violence.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Social-Ecological Model: A Framework for Prevention

How High School Robotics is Healing Afghanistan
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Four Afghanistan teen girls on stage accepting their robotics award

Since 2017, an all-girls robotics team in Herat, Afghanistan, has taken the world by storm.

Within a short period of time, the group of seven teenagers won silver medals at the First Global Challenge robotics competition in Washington and for winning the entrepreneur challenge at the biggest robotics competition in Europe.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that a group of girls put their heads together to create vital and accessible medical equipment needed to treat coronavirus patients. Taking inspiration from an MIT design, the girls finalized their version of an easily accessible and cost-effective ventilator, a necessary piece of equipment that cannot be easily found among Afghanistan’s medical centers. The ventilator calls for a lighter, more portable, battery-operated design that would cost as little as $700 to obtain a rather than normal $20,000. Though these plans were completely put together by the girls, Harvard University stood with the girls as a source of advice and support.

Somaya Faruqi, one of the members of the robotic team, said of the designs, “We are delighted that we were able to take our step into the field of medicine and to be able to serve the people in this area as well.”

The designs have been submitted to the World Health Organization for approval and have gained great support from Afghanistan’s Minister of Health, praising the girls for their “initiative and creativity in Afghanistan’s health sector…”

Why Diversity Matters: The Benefits of Recognizing Overlooked and Untapped Talent
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fist pump between a white and black hand

By Santura Pegram

Growing up, most of us were taught that brilliant innovators of everything from electricity to the lightbulb, automobiles, pharmaceuticals-medical devices, materials, alloys like steel-iron-aluminum-copper, and everything else under the sun were created by European (white) inventors.

However, while such figures certainly deserve recognition for their creations, and ongoing generations should be grateful to those individuals for their contributions, what was omitted from such history lessons was the fact that equally skillful black people and incredible thinkers of other diverse backgrounds also played equally pivotal roles. These latter groups of people helped to create some of the greatest inventions, took others to the next level or devised a new product or service altogether that are still relied upon today.

Disappointingly, most schools and institutions of higher learning have failed to teach material that revealed such hidden truths – both then and now. Thankfully, recent developments in several industries are enlightening increasing numbers of people about the historic and almost unknown contributions of black and brown people throughout the world.

Most affluent Americans and countless others have little clue that it was black people alone who kept the automobile brand, Cadillac, afloat in the U.S. In the 1930’s, as America was struggling to recover from The Great Depression and as racism continued to ruin opportunities for everyone who held onto to such nonproductive beliefs, a low-ranking German immigrant – Nicholas Dreystadt – who worked for General Motors at the time boldly entered a boardroom after overhearing perplexed white executives discuss consideration of abandoning the brand due to increasingly poor sales. The problem: GM was relying solely upon white Americans to buy the cars. Yet, from his menial position as a service division employee, Dreystadt quickly recognized that it was large numbers of black customers who owned Cadillacs who often were found waiting for their vehicles to be serviced at GM dealerships.

At the time, Cadillac had a strict practice against selling any of their luxury cars to black customers. Interestingly, through his own experiences of interacting with many such black customers, Dreystadt learned that black people routinely paid a white person (i.e., a front man) a fee to go into a dealership and purchase the Cadillac of choice for them. Thus, determined to make his point and show what could happen if GM abandoned their discriminatory policy, Dreystadt was successful at implementing a new diversity marketing approach, which increased sales of Cadillacs by 68%, and helped to make the brand profitable within 18 months. His same strategy was later adopted by Mercedes Benz to include black people and increased sales of their once-struggling brand too.

Still not convinced that diversity makes a huge difference in the world? Then consider the story of Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green and how he revolutionized whiskey. Green, a former slave in Lynchburg, Tennessee was the first black master distiller in America who taught Jack Daniel how to make the liquid gold. For more than a century, Nathan “Nearest” Green’s name was purposely left out of history books and absent from most conversations which tied him to the Jack Daniel’s brand. It would have likely remained that way had it not been for the relentless curiosity of Fawn Weaver, a California businesswoman, who in 2017 spearheaded the launching of what is now known as the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey brand in an industry that generates $3 billion dollars annually.

If those two examples are not enough proof that the creative (yet often unwisely ignored) potential of black and brown people continue to be a legitimate factor to consider throughout every sector of business, then consider other little-known facts that prove minorities are capable of being far more than the brawn behind an endeavor, they can also be the brains too.

Did any of the schools you ever attended teach you that Dr. Domingo Liotta – a South American native – was the person responsible for creating the first artificial heart that was successfully transplanted into a human being? Did they teach you that Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni – who was born in Uruguay – not only invented a bandage that administers medicinal drugs through a patient’s skin, but he was also responsible for helping to develop several other widely used products for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, including the nicotine patch used to aid smokers in breaking their nasty habit? Were you ever informed that it was an enormously intelligent medical doctor – Julio Palmaz, who was born in Argentina – that invented the balloon-expandable stent frequently used to treat one of the most common health conditions (cardiovascular disease)?

Do your research on Dr. Thomas O. Mensah, the engineer and genius inventor who played a critical role in the development of fiber optics and nanotechnology. While you’re at it, take a few moments to delve into the impressive educational program known as ‘Make Music Count,’ created by Marcus Blackwell which aims to eliminate the fear of math and simultaneously teach children between the 3rd grade and 12th grade how to perform better mathematically while enjoying culturally relevant lessons through music.

Explore the insightful exploration of incredible thinkers like Elijah McCoy, Granville T. Woods, Patricia E. Bath, Frederick McKinley Jones, Jessica O. Matthews, Jasmine Crowe, Diishan Imira and countless others.

Then, imagine what could be accomplished if people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds throughout America and around the world were to put our heads together and entertain the thought of what has yet to be discovered? Quite possibly, that could include creating a cure for most (if not all) chronic diseases and health ailments. Maybe finding the answer to eradicate poverty, homelessness, and world hunger. Perhaps devise better public policy solutions focused on bringing people together instead of fanning insignificant flames which have only kept us apart.

Whatever the case and despite our achievements as segmented human beings, it’s not difficult to debate that we have only scratched the surface of everything that can be accomplished – if we will commit our hearts and minds to doing it together.

Santura Pegram is a freelance writer and socially conscious business professional. A former protégé-aide to the “Political Matriarch of the State of Florida” – the Honorable M. Athalie Range – Santura often writes on topics ranging from socially relevant issues to international business to politics. He can be reached at: santura.pegram@yahoo.com

Who Said Woman Was Not Meant to Fly?
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Bronwyn Morgan pictured smiling sitting at a table

By Laurie Dowling, National Utilities Diversity Council

What do you get when a serial innovator merges her vocation and her avocation? You get Bronwyn Morgan, founder of Xeo Air, an outsourced AI-based drone services and data analytics company, and Airversity Drone Academy & Consulting.

Founded in 2019, Xeo Air is the next step in a management and entrepreneurial journey that has taken Bronwyn from strategic visioning at Fortune 100 companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, to media, academia and now aerospace futuring.

For those of us whose knowledge of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV – drones) has mostly been garnered from adventure movies, it may come as a surprise that in the next two years the commercial drone industry in the US is expected to reach $100 billion. In the four years since the Federal Aviation Administration granted more operations exemptions and flight regulations for professional drone services, they have increasingly become a part of business and civilian life, even if we aren’t always aware of them. They do and will perform functions ranging from mapping and data collection to delivery, crop fertilizing and facility disinfecting.

Xeo Air focuses on business to business solutions with inspection and mapping services with high definition video, thermography, LIDAR and infrared, for industries including civil infrastructure, oil and gas, wind, solar, utilities, construction, telecommunications, disaster response and government. Xeo Air is a young startup with an administrative team of four and 20 FAA part 107 certified pilots, and Bronwyn and her backers see it poised for growth as companies continue to embrace this game-changing geospatial data collection tool that saves businesses time and money so they can make decisions more quickly.

Additionally, to serve the growing need in public safety and corporations that need in-house capacity in unmanned aerial vehicles, a year ago, Bronwyn created a training company – Airversity Drone Academy and Consulting – which fields a team of FAA 107 certified instructors (pilots) based around the US who provide FAA exam prep and flight training.

A few questions for Bronwyn:

Are there a lot of drone companies owned by women?

I am part of a small but growing segment of the industry owned by women. Less than 10 percent of drone companies are owned by women, but the numbers are increasing, and there are more women in senior positions in larger companies as well.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your company so far?

Scaling up. It takes resources and time to grow your client base and to source talent, and you must sharpen your business model as the environment changes in this young industry. We also have limitations based on regulations and equipment innovation, but that is changing rapidly.

Have you had to educate potential customers on drone services because of misperceptions?

Absolutely. What most people know of drones is primarily their military usage. Our UAVs are very different and our business is different. We have to educate our potential clients about how drones can help their businesses and how we can help them make decisions faster, safer and at a lower price point than traditional services. And when you put it together with machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data becomes more actualized. There are so many uses for our services. Example: We’re able to get up and down a tower for routine inspection within an hour and capture significant data critical to immediate maintenance requirements. We can also assess damage to critical infrastructure after disasters, which can mean life and death in emergency response. Additionally, our capabilities can provide streaming information that allows customers to see real time the status of any asset. The use cases are endless.

What do you think is your competitive advantage?

We’re building an end-to-end product. We can collect data; keep you informed digitally through the processes and analyze the information for immediate use. We’re able to take care of customers end to end. And we can do it securely, with a high level of customer service. We treat our clients’ business as if it were our own.

What is in your future?

I’m working on solutions with flying passenger vehicles, to be announced soon. This is the future of aeronautics. It’s a dream job. When I was in high school, I wanted to fly fighter planes, which they didn’t allow women to do. I think my job is better!

We agree. In fact, please forgive the pun, but we think Bronwyn is soaring.

For more information on Xeo Air and Airversity, please visit their web pages: https://xeoair.com/ and www.airversity.com. For more information on NUDC and its free programs to advance diversity, please go to: https://nudc.com/

Meet the first black women to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges
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three black women nuclear engineers seated at table on the grass outside office building

By Amanda Zrebiec

On most days, the corner conference room in Building 26 on the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s Laurel, Maryland, campus is indistinguishable from the many quiet work spaces that surround it. But on a gray afternoon in mid-February, the voices, laughter and energy bounding from its occupants differentiate it from the rest.

As Jamie Porter, Mareena Robinson Snowden, and Ciara Sivels gather around the small table inside, the feeling of stumbling onto a gathering of old friends is difficult to shake. Their bonds, though, are forged less through time than their shared experience of being “the first.”

Each one—Porter, APL’s radiation effects lead for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission; Snowden, a senior engineer in the National Security Analysis Department; and Sivels, a nuclear engineer in the Air and Missile Defense Sector—was the first black woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges: University of Tennessee, 2012; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2018; and University of Michigan, 2018.

Now, Porter, Snowden and Sivels work in three different sectors at APL, dedicating their time and their brains to important challenges facing the nation. Here, they have created a community.

Path to the Ph.D.

“I used to hate physics,” Porter says with a laugh. “Lord, I don’t know how, but now I live in this world.”

Porter arrived in APL’s Space Exploration Sector in 2015. She focuses on radiation hardness assurance for all electric, electrical and electrochemical parts of missions, specifically NASA’s planned Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy moon. She also manages the sector’s Radiation Analysis and Test section.

Three years before she arrived at APL, Porter was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee. It’s likely, Porter said, that she was just the second black woman in the country to do so, after J’Tia Hart, who received hers from the University of Illinois and subsequently appeared on Season 28 of the CBS show Survivor.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Porter said her goal was to get a master’s. Her professor and graduate advisor, Lawrence Townsend, told her a Ph.D. was what she needed. Porter credited Townsend for pushing her—from undergraduate classes through her doctorate, and even a postdoctoral fellowship. “He told me, ‘You need to do this for yourself, and you need to do this for other people,’” Porter said.

It wasn’t until Porter was nearing her graduation that Tennessee discovered she’d be their first. They didn’t publicize it at the time—a decision reached through a conversation with Porter, where the school admitted embarrassment that it took until 2012 to reach the milestone. They later acknowledged regret at not celebrating it more publicly.

“I actually got to be the speaker at the hooding ceremony the year after I graduated, and it resonated with a lot of people,” Porter said.

When Snowden became the first black woman to earn a nuclear engineering Ph.D. from MIT in 2018, on the contrary, it was well publicized, particularly after her own Instagram post from graduation day went viral. That doesn’t mean her path to that moment was smooth. In retrospect, it wasn’t even a path she necessarily chose.

“People ask me, ‘How did you pick nuclear engineering?’ and I’m like, ‘Nuclear engineering picked me.’ You get a ticket, you get on the train,” she said.

Snowden credited her father, Bill Robinson, with guiding her into studying physics as an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, a historically black college in Tallahassee. It was a visit with a friend of a friend who worked at the school that started her trajectory.

The mantra of FAMU is they don’t expect you to be the best student on the way in, but you will be the best and most competitive student on the way out. That, Snowden said, was absolutely her experience.

It was acceptance into a summer research program at MIT after her freshman year that set Snowden on a firmer course. “It was the only application I sent out because I just knew I was going to be at FAMU doing research in the lab like normal,” she said. “But they messed around and accepted me. And we celebrated like I got into the Ph.D. program.”

A few years later, she did that, too.

Snowden, whose work at APL leverages her technical training in nuclear engineering on current and future national security challenges, applied to eight graduate schools. She got into one.

That’s where she met Sivels.

Sivels and Snowden first connected when the former was an undergraduate MIT student in nuclear engineering and the latter was working toward her Ph.D. That fact alone would knock a 16-year-old Sivels over with a feather.

Originally wanting to be a chef, Sivels’ chemistry teacher pushed her to explore her options—urging her to take his class (advanced placement chemistry) as a senior, recommending she look into chemical engineering schools, and turning her down time after time as she suggested potential colleges that might be a good fit.

“He kept saying, ‘This isn’t good enough, this isn’t good enough,’” Sivels recalled.

To boost her credentials for engineering school, Sivels enrolled in a local community college physics class that covered the history of the discipline. Fascinated by antimatter, she read about work at the California Institute of Technology. The Virginia native showed that school to her mom, who nixed the idea. But as she researched Caltech further, their rival, MIT, popped up.

“I didn’t know what MIT was, the prestige associated with it, anything,” said Sivels, whose work at APL focuses on how radiation interacts with and changes the properties of various types of materials. “It just came up in the sentence with Caltech, so I took it back to my teacher, Robert Harrell, and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the kind of school you need to be applying to.’”

Even after she was accepted, Sivels was certain she’d be attending Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a campus visit to MIT—coupled with the release of the movie 21—that helped convince her of the school’s esteemed reputation.

Her undergraduate studies were difficult. Sivels noted, among other setbacks, she failed a class and shed many a tear. She got through it, and knew she wanted to further her impact in the field. That’s when her advisors suggested moving on to Michigan for her graduate education.

And it wasn’t until she went searching for a mentor there—preferably another black woman who’d gone through the program—that Michigan noted she’d be the first.

 The Challenges of Being the First

In many ways, these women know they are the exception, not the rule. They were able to navigate turbulent waters and persevere through biases and other challenges.

It doesn’t mean, however, that just because they did it, black women trying to get nuclear engineering Ph.D.s are suddenly no longer the exception.

“I come from an HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], and so much of that culture and legacy is about that question of responsibility,” Snowden said. “FAMU was intentional about teaching us the context—about what it meant to be black in America and in professional spaces. I went into my Ph.D. process with that context, so when I came up against a challenge, or a person coming at me sideways, I could leverage that context to help me interpret the situation.”

“Both of my parents went to HBCUs, so I had that training, too,” Sivels added. “My parents didn’t want to jade me, but they knew I was smart, and they knew it was coming…When I used to cry to them at MIT, my parents were like, ‘You’ll get over it. Welcome to the world—something is finally hard for you.’”

Porter, who grew up in Tennessee with a white mother and a black father, said, “There are moments when I am like gosh, I do feel the pressure, because I have to deal with comments or expectations that my counterpart does not. Sometimes I will send out an e-mail that says, ‘This is a learning moment, please do not do this [thing you may not think is offensive, but is offensive],’ and I’ll put it out there because I feel like…”

As Porter trails off, Sivels jumps in. “If you don’t, who will?”

“That’s exactly right,” Porter said. “But it’s hard. You have to pick and choose your battles. You have to think, ‘How is this going to affect me if I react right now?’”

“I read a paper once that talked about that,” Snowden said. “They called it the tax. It’s the tax you have to pay of being ‘one of only’ of an identity. That extra calculation you have to do in your mind of ‘How am I going to be perceived in this environment? How do I respond to this stimulus?’ That’s a tax your counterparts from majority populations don’t have to pay.”

And that, the women noted emphatically, doesn’t even include bouts of impostor syndrome that often lurk just around the corner even as they continue their ascents.

Eyes on the Future

To listen to Porter, Snowden and Sivels, you’d think their trailblazing happened with a shrug of the shoulders—they just put their heads down and did what they thought they were supposed to do. It wasn’t nearly so simple.

They also know the rewards of their perseverance come with a duty to future generations.

“I definitely feel a responsibility,” Porter said. “I am the lead radiation engineer for a billion-dollar flagship NASA mission, and when I do reviews, most often I am the only black person in the room. So, I try really hard to bring people with me.”

They make an effort to mentor those behind them. They work on committees and in outreach programs, like the IF/THEN Ambassador program, of which Sivels is a part.

And they tell their stories. They talk about their journeys so that their shared experiences as “the first” are ultimately just a way to pave the road for those behind them.

“I look at the diversity and inclusion conversation as two sides to one coin,” Snowden said. “You have the recruitment piece, and the second, less-talked-about part, is the retention piece. Once they’ve gotten into these programs, and they’ve gotten their Ph.D.s and they’re STEM professionals, how do we get them to and through mid-career, promoted up to senior levels, given power so they can hire, and all of those types of things that will make an impact?

“Now, I think the mission is to preserve the recruitment momentum but create a new body of momentum on the retention piece, but it’s the harder challenge to me.”

In a way, what Porter, Snowden and Sivels would like is for their accomplishments as “the firsts” to fade. For them to be the firsts of many—and for that to extend through to professional life.

“I love outreach,” Porter said. “It’s telling your story. It’s letting a little girl see what’s possible. [Snowden and Sivels] saw each other [at MIT], but they didn’t really see it was possible until it happened. I didn’t see anybody and it was just like, ‘Well, this is happening.’

“But it all goes back to that responsibility and the fact that now we have that responsibility to put ourselves out there—so other girls can see it’s possible.”

Photo Caption: From left, Jamie Porter, Ciara Sivels, and Mareena Robinson Snowden, who all now work at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, were each the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. from their respective colleges in nuclear engineering.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL / Craig Weiman

This story is courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. This is an abridged version. The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, or to read the unabridged story, please visit www.jhuapl.edu.

How to Use Online Networking Now for Future Success
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Smiling girl wearing headphones using laptop, working online

By Alexis Reale

It’s been said that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself. You need to make finding a job the focus of your daily routine, and follow a detailed job search plan to ensure that your time is being used wisely.

While applying for jobs is a large part of your job search, networking remains one of the top ways job seekers find positions, so it pays to build a variety of solid connections. During the pandemic, in-person networking is out of the question, so you need to change your networking tactics to focus on online networking. However, even during “normal” times, creating a strong online network can benefit your job search and career.

How Online Networking Helps Your Job Search

With online networking, you have a wider reach than you would at an in-person event. People from all over the world can meet up in a professional, like-minded group, giving you the opportunity to meet and network with people in your field that you might never meet otherwise.

Creating a Successful Online Networking Strategy

Start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become the go-to site for career-related networking. Beyond creating an optimized LinkedIn profile, be sure you’re taking full advantage of all it has to offer. Let LinkedIn automatically make the “easy” connections by sending invites to everyone in your address book. Then, take heed of its periodic suggestions of other members you might know based on your information or background.

Move Beyond LinkedIn

While LinkedIn is the place for all things career-related, don’t limit yourself to one social network. If your work involves a visual component, create a professional Pinterest or Instagram account to highlight that part of your work. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to engage with thought leaders and other professionals in your field. To take your personal branding to the next level, consider building your own website. It’s a great place to collect testimonials about your work, and create an online portfolio of your accomplishments. This should serve as a one-stop shop for people to connect with you and to learn about your background.

Consider Your Existing Network

Before you reach out to possible new networking connections, reach out to your existing connections first. This is a great way to start building your online network.

Starting with current contacts can offer a greater sense of support and connection simply because of the existing relationship. It can also allow you to catch up with former colleagues and peers, and potentially schedule informational interviews. LinkedIn also has a feature that allows your existing connections to introduce you to their connections. This helps you build your network when one of your current connections is connected to someone you want to meet. You can then ask that existing connection to introduce you.

Try Chats and Groups

Eventually, though, you’ll want to expand your network from existing contacts to new contacts. While that can be intimidating, online networking makes it easier and less stressful for people to connect with new networking contacts.

Join social media groups and chats dedicated to your area of interest. Groups can be found on LinkedIn, and chats exist on Twitter. If you’re savvy with social media, you can also find discussions with like-minded individuals through Reddit. You’ll want to find the sub-Reddit that pertains to your profession.

Choose the Right Connections

Before you reach out to any professional, consider if you’re reaching out to the appropriate person. There is often a pecking order of who talks to whom. If you are a mid-level professional trying to reach out to CEO and executive-level professionals exclusively, you may be hurting your chances of forming any valuable connection.

Connect with professionals on a similar career level to you, or who work on a team where they could be your manager (i.e., a senior tax accountant reaching out to a senior tax manager). This way, you will foster relationships with the people that truly matter—the ones who can influence hiring decisions and likely relate most effectively to your experience. In addition to online networking, joining a professional association in your area is a great way to network in your industry.

Slow Down

“Hi, this is Bob, and I would like a job,” is not the best way to introduce yourself to someone. Networking takes time and requires a relationship to develop. As you continue to build your relationship, you can dive into more details about your professional relationship and potential jobs, but jumping in with both feet and asking outright for a job will only hurt your chances of success.

Keep your “cold call” introductions quick, simple, and professional. Don’t ask too many questions and don’t expound on your great accomplishments in this first message. This first message is just an introduction, a hook to get their attention. Once you have their attention and their response is positive, you can take the next step and delve into more detailed networking questions.

Taking these small steps displays your interest in the company, but it also shows your respect for the person you are contacting.

Online Networking Now for Success Later

Networking is one of the most complex aspects of being involved in the professional world. There are endless methods, tools, and platforms associated with networking, and it can be difficult to decide where and how to start.

One constant about networking, however, is that it is about the practice of building relationships over time. Don’t wait until you are out of work to start networking. It’s something you should develop throughout your career. Take the time to successfully network online using the tips above, and the results will be worth the wait.

Source: flexjobs.com

Meet the Latina CEO who Won’t Stop Exceeding Expectations
LinkedIn
Irma Olgui stands smiling with arms folded

Irma Olguin, the tech CEO of Geekwise Academy, is not your typical CEO. Though she lives in California, where many business owners have taken to big cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Olguin runs her business in Fresno, California, one of the poorest cities in the United States.

She spends her workdays with pink hair, normally wearing T-shirts and jeans, and depended on recycling cans and bottles to afford the transportation fee to the University of Toledo, where she was the first person in her family to earn her degree.

Through her studies, Olguin found her passion for computer science and engineering, a field that is predominately male. Following her graduation in 2004, Olguin had several opportunities to work various tech jobs near her school but ultimately decided to return to Fresno in an attempt to boost the economy. While working with Fresno school districts in both teaching and performing computer programming work, Olguin teamed up with property lawyer Jake Sobreal in 2012. Both being Fresno natives, Olguin and Sobreal decided it was time to teach the natives of their hometown the skills they would need to boost their economy and to better provide for themselves.

In 2013, Geekwise Academy was born, a crash course learning center for coding, technology, and business skills. The academy has given people with a wide variety of backgrounds the inspiration and tools needed to jump back into the workforce. Graduates of the Geekwise Academy have included military veterans, newly released prisoners, and even make up 25% of Shift3 Technologies’ staff.


With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, Olguin decided to defy the expectations of a potential crashing economy and use the situation to her advantage. In March of 2020, Geekwise Academy went digital where the company received double their usual clientele, despite having opened more locations two years before. Despite the pandemic, Olguin and Sobreal are still working toward opening new locations, despite uncertain real estate numbers.


Given their estimated $27 million in capital backing, $20 million in revenue, and her past of consistently defeating the odds, Olguin’s desire to grow her company, stimulate the economy, and help those desiring a better career, are looking positive. Of her company, Olguin says, “We’ve found a fundamentally different way to rebuild American cities, especially at a time when folks are looking around and saying, ‘What do we do with our economy?’ We think we have the answer to that.”

This HBCU is Determined to Help All Communities Properly Fight COVID-19
LinkedIn
Morehouse School of Medicine brown building corner view

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HSS) Office of Minority Health has selected the Morehouse School of Medicine, a highly successful HBCU, to receive a $40 million initiative to help suffering communities fight the devastations of COVID-19. The grant was received as part of the National Infrastructure of Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 within Racial and Ethnic Communities (NIMIC), an organization designed to help communities of color to have the appropriate resources to combat COVID-19.


Though this partnership, NIMIC and the Morehouse School of Medicine will be teaming up to provide vulnerable communities across the country to obtain access to healthcare, social services, testing kits, training and education. Though the NIMIC has already been working with various organizations within the last few months on providing these resources, the partnership with Morehouse allows for the project to continue their work in a more advanced, efficient, and more widespread way.


“Underlying social determinants of health and disparate burdens of chronic medical conditions are contributing to worse COVID-19 related outcomes in minority and socially vulnerable communities,” NIMIC’s Assistant Secretary of Health, Brett P. Giroir stated in a press release. “This partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine is essential to improving our overall response…we are ready to advance our efforts to support our most affected communities.”

Moving the Needle on DEI Hiring
LinkedIn
Three girls working on an engineering project in a science lab

The demand for workers in areas like healthcare, supply chain and others has never been more critical than it is today. Two businesses are now joining forces to offer solutions to help organizations find top candidates while ensuring their talent pool is diverse.

Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE), founded by Erika Jefferson to support underrepresented women in STEM through networking, mentorship, and career development, is partnering with Cambio, a multi-faceted recruiting and diversity platform founded by Neil Patwardhan and Bob Richards. Both organizations are focused on truly moving the needle on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) hiring in meaningful way.

BWISE, with its professional job board and network of over 15,000 scientists, engineers and technologists, can focus on guidance to employers and diverse job seekers with a focus on black women in STEM. And Cambio, through its Diversity Engine and analytics, can spotlight diverse candidates and ensure biases are surfaced and focus on delivering top candidates.

BWISE is focused on bridging the leadership gap for Black women in STEM. It was founded with the purpose of supporting underrepresented women through networking, mentorship and career development. The group primarily consists of black women from middle management through senior leadership with degrees in the sciences, math and engineering (even if they no longer work in that field) who would like to connect with others.

Cambio’s mission is to create a more human experience in the world of recruiting and job searching with video, and make the process more transparent and fun by embracing the swipe culture of viral mobile applications. The company aims to speed up the hiring process and lead the way in diversity hiring by helping companies meet their workforce goals for 2020 and beyond.

For additional information on BWISE, click here.

For additional information on Cambio, click here.

A Passion for Equity in Education
LinkedIn
Karl Reid smiling for the camera

By Eric Addison

He didn’t fully realize it at the time, but as a high school student, Karl Reid had a few advantages that helped him achieve success against a backdrop of challenges. His work today, as a leading advocate for increasing college access, opportunity and success, seeks to spread those types of advantages more equitably across the educational landscape for students of all races, ethnicities, genders and economic circumstances.

Born in the Bronx and raised in Roosevelt, a predominantly African-American, working-class community on Long Island, Reid had parents who placed a high value on education and applied high standards to their children’s academic work. When he was admitted to a well-resourced, magnet high school near Roosevelt, a school with a majority white student body, it put him on a track to follow his older brother to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, he fully expected to continue being an outstanding student, so his first-semester struggles came as a shock.

“Suddenly, I was a college student who barely understood what was going on in lecture. I hadn’t learned yet to read ahead of class,” Reid says. “I could barely keep up with new information being presented to me, never mind ask a question. My score of 38 on my first physical chemistry exam was the final wake-up call.”

Reid came through the crisis by finding his internal drive (his “grit”), by applying it to a demanding regimen of independent study and by building beneficial relationships on campus. In his freshman year, he joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a college-student-led organization with a mission to, “increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.” Reid credits NSBE with building his leadership skills during his tenure as vice president of MIT’s NSBE chapter in his junior year, and subsequently as the Society’s national chair. He left MIT in 1985 as a Tau Beta Pi scholar with two academic degrees: A Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in materials science and engineering.

Later, in 1991, years into a successful career in the burgeoning computer industry, Reid had a crucial experience that clarified his purpose and changed his life’s work. Reading Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, a seminal volume about educational disparities in the United States, he saw how his own experience as a K–12 student fit into a broad pattern of discrimination. He finished the book determined to do something about the problem.

Reid left the computer field to return to MIT, where he worked in positions of progressive responsibility to increase diversity at his alma mater—eventually becoming associate dean of undergraduate education and director of the Office of Minority Education—and took the opportunity to earn a Doctor of Education at Harvard University. His next employer was the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), where he oversaw new program development, research and capacity building for the organization’s 37 historically black colleges and universities and held the title of senior vice president for research, innovation and member college engagement.

In June 2014, Dr. Reid made another auspicious return, this time to NSBE as executive director. Based at the Society’s World Headquarters building in Alexandria, Virginia, he supports NSBE’s National Executive Board, and NSBE’s 25,000 in reaching the main goal of the Society’s 10-year strategic plan: To partner with educational institutions to end the underrepresentation of blacks in engineering in the U.S. by producing 10,000 black engineers annually in the country, by 2025. He has also helped nurture NSBE’s impressive growth abroad: A large percentage of the Society’s members now reside in Africa.

Dr. Reid’s diversity and inclusion work outside of NSBE—most notably his foundational and leadership role with the 50K Coalition and his membership on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech—also supports the Society’s mission. And he has authored a book, Working Smarter, Not Just Harder: Three Sensible Strategies for Succeeding in College…and Life, which was published in 2017.

Dr. Reid admits the societal problems he has chosen to solve are large and intractable, but after 22 years of rising daily to the challenge, he believes the statistics are moving in the right direction.

“Seeing young people grow in intellect and character and go on to achievements in STEM that benefit their families, their communities, their nation and themselves is a priceless experience,” Dr. Reid says. “Our work is difficult, but the rewards are great.”

How to Set Up a Virtual Event
LinkedIn
A woman watching a virtual panel while taking notes from her desk at home

By Jerri Barrett, Marketing and Event Consultant

COVID-19 has significantly impacted the event industry, forcing some organizations to cancel 2020 events, while others are moving to virtual events.

Virtual events are not new. For International Women’s Day 2013, Global Tech Women launched a global virtual conference, which featured more than 70 speakers from around the world and ran for 36 hours. More than 11,000 attendees joined the conference from 50 countries. A key learning from that conference: “When a conference is virtual, what becomes critical is the promotion of the conference to create awareness and excitement. Our sponsor, Google, helped us achieve global visibility and drove the global engagement,” said Deanna Kosaraju, CEO of Global Tech Women.

In 2016, VMware began hosting a conference on its campus in Silicon Valley called Women Transforming Technology (WT2). Over the past four years, the conference became an annual tradition, and plans were well underway for 2020 when the COVID-19 crisis began. The call for participation had been completed, the schedule of speakers was set—including Hollywood icon Laura Dern as the closing speaker—and registration had opened.

“I have always been a worrier/planner, so while I was watching the news in February and hearing more and more about COVID-19, I realized that we would need to be making a decision about whether to take our conference—scheduled for May 5—virtual, and the sooner we made the decision, the better off we would be,” said Arti Sharma, diversity & inclusion program manager, VMware. “We realized when the shelter in place order came into effect on March 6 that over 500 people were probably not going to want to nor be able to sit in the same room in May. On March 11, we got the approvals and input we needed to transition to a virtual conference plan.”

Sharma shared some issues that need to be addressed when making a conference virtual:

Registration fees: Because WT2 was underwritten by VMware and other sponsors, WT2 had the option to offer free registration for attendees and made registration open to everyone. They have seen an enormous spike both in attendee numbers and in the number of countries represented. What was formerly a Silicon Valley-focused event has now become global with representatives from multiple countries across six continents. While most organizations do not have this option, the cost structure for a virtual event is very different and needs to be accounted for in registration pricing.

Plan for breaks: Attendees working from home are frequently interrupted by children, significant others and pets. Make sure there are breaks between sessions and offer attendees speaker-led activities like stretches or gentle exercises.

Prepare your speakers: Every speaker at the WT2 conference agreed to participate virtually without hesitation. Each speaker can rehearse twice before the event to ensure they are successful. Rehearsals are scheduled close to the time of day their session will be held, so in addition to testing equipment and access, speakers will be given feedback on their lighting and background. Someone will introduce them, monitor the chat and organize Q&As, and make sure all attendees can access the system with their passwords. Make full use of volunteers and committee members.

Security: Everything should be password-protected and available to only registered attendees, each with a unique code.

Recordings: Video conference platforms include the option of recording sessions. Have speakers sign video waivers, and plan how attendees can access these recordings after the event.

Accessibility: Accessibility issues have been raised for a number of conferences—virtual conferences are no different. Closed captioning is available in some video platforms.  AccessSIGCHI has created a guide for creating Accessible Remote Attendance on its website.

The conference app company Whova recently launched a series of webinars for their customers who manage conferences and need to rapidly address becoming virtual.

Key issues highlighted include:

Virtual conference platforms. Video conferencing platforms vary in their pricing, ability to scale, and the amount of control over access that can be exercised

Time zones. Conference organizers should be mindful of time zones and consider shorter days

Sponsor/attendee engagement. Event sponsors will turn to event organizers to demonstrate unique ways to connect with attendees. Conference apps, websites and conference programs can be used to convey important sponsor information. Networking functions in apps and on-video platforms can connect sponsor representatives to individual attendees. Also consider using gamification functions to encourage attendees to visit sponsor pages and websites.

Attendee networking. Many conference attendees seek to broaden their networks and identify collaborators and mentors. Consider providing a platform to enable attendees to create a profile page and engage on a community bulletin board, and offer the option during sessions for attendees to chat with each other.

In March, the RESPECT Conference had three days needed to go virtual to help protect their attendees. Brianna Blaser, counselor/coordinator at DO-IT at the University of Washington, was both a presenter and attendee of the conference. “As it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to go to Portland, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to present my paper but also that I would miss out on connecting with colleagues who I only see in person once or twice a year. I was so glad to hear that RESPECT was going virtual. They made heavy use of breakout rooms for small group discussions, which meant I was able to connect with so many of those colleagues and meet new people as well.”

DISM BLM

Thank you essential workers

thank you essential workers
 
*Please be sure to check event websites for latest updates on postponements or cancellations due to COVID-19 precautions.