Heart for Outreach
Past and Current
I have reached out to local schools to speak on my life experiences and encourage young women who are interested in STEM subjects to nurture their spirit of curiosity. In October 2016, I visited Wellstone, a public school in Minneapolis, where I connected with a young blind woman aspiring to become a physicist. Through her, I saw glints of my own story, and I sought to inform the school about accommodations that could equip her to overcome her obstacles as a blind students.
Within the University of Minnesota, I have the unique opportunity to work closely and intensely with the students who work as my assistants. In several of these relationships, I’ve inadvertently found myself serving as a mentor. One fellow female chemist and past access assistant wrote: “[I] will always consider you a mentor and friend. You taught me so much regarding my career and professionalism… So much of me is made from what I’ve learned from you.” I am also providing guidance to the general chemistry laboratories at the University of Minnesota on improving accommodations for the visually impaired students.
In the fall, I was one of two blind women invited to Mexico City and Monterey, Mexico to participate a series of talks on integrating blind students into the sciences. In addition to the incredibly rewarding experience of sharing my story on so broad a scale and for such a cause, I was able to connect with the other woman who spoke at the conference–an astrophysicist who lost her sight in her late twenties. Since then, she has developed a program that can sonify astronomical data. She has taken me on as a mentee, and we are now collaborating to expand her program into the field of chemistry and eventually bring its potential to the mainstream. I have high hopes for how this could help tap into the analytical abilities of visually-impaired individuals. I have been invited to return to Mexico this year.
Empowerment Through Integration
This year, I became STEM advisor for the female-founded non-profit, Empowerment Through Integration (ETI). ETI works to improve the life and education for blind children around the world. I am heading a project to design a science curriculum that is accessible to sighted and blind students alike. My vision is that one day blind students and sighted students will be able to share one classroom, undivided by level of ability. To offer myself as a resource and to continue to arouse a global scientific interest, I plan to visit ETI campuses as I am able.
I intend to engage with college-aged women by guiding them to and by supporting University of Minnesota student groups such as Girls Rising. With time, I believe my outreach efforts will be able to combat the underrepresentation of various minority demographics in the sciences.