Northwestern/ETHS partnership office prioritizes diversity in STEM pathways

Louise Bond, Staff Writer

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At the District 202 school board meeting on Jan. 14, Northwestern University/Evanston Township High School partnership faculty make it clear that in year seven of this partnership, diversity in pathways to Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) as well as incorporating the arts into STEM are prioritiezs.

“The partnership has expanded and grown from a focus on STEM programs to over 100 partnerships that are supported by our partnership office,” Northwestern’s Executive Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations Dave Davis said at the Jan. 14 District 202 school board meeting.

The Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math Design Thinking and Innovation (STEAM DTI) two period math elective course, designed after many programs at Northwestern, was created with the help of the Northwestern/ETHS partnership office to widen pipeline to STEM. The seniors-only class has expanded from nine students it’s first year, the 2017-2018 school year, to 26 students this year.

“Adding the arts into STEM, taking a design approach, incorporating and valuing creativity, and really talking about creative problem solving processes being integral to STEM opens up the STEM pipeline and pathway because it says we are not just looking for one perspective, which by default can often be a white male perspective, but it’s also cognitively a left-brain, analytical kind of thinking,” Northwestern University/Evanston Township High School Partnership Coordinator Kristen Perkins said.

After doing much learning and problem solving in all of the fields included in STEAM during first semester, students create their own project during second semester based on whichever topic they’re interested in researching further.

“[The class] broadens and exposes you to all these fields, and gives you more access to all the different interests you might have,” senior and student in STEAM DTI Erin Eddy said.

The Women in STEM club, or WiSTEM, created by ETHS alumnus Nina Deouf and Northwestern Partnership office six years ago, is another example of how the Northwestern/ETHS partnership office faculty has made STEM more accessible to all.

“I think [WiSTEM] brings awareness and supports females of all races to know that you can definitely be a part of STEM,” senior and co-president of WiSTEM Aliyah Bryant said. “This year, we tried to show that there are so many people that are doing different things in STEM. It’s not only engineering, it’s not only medicine, and that representation really matters.”

Northwestern students engage with WiSTEM by hosting shadow days and workshops multiple times each year to expose club members to what it’s like to study in the STEM fields at the college level. Female Northwestern students also come to club meetings to speak about their experience in the STEM field about once per month.

“My hope is that by bringing in students, especially women, from Northwestern that are in different places along that journey and different places throughout the pathway, that it can help our WiSTEM members see themselves in different places,” Perkins said.

WiSTEM members also go out into the Evanston community every few months to do some activities with elementary and middle school girls to introduce them to the WiSTEM club.

“Building support and awareness, encouraging them is a big thing because when you’re a young female, especially a female of color, you don’t really get much encouragement or support in STEM,” Bryant said.

In the past couple years, the Northwestern Partnership Office has brought in a multitude of guest speakers from Northwestern and organized parent events to make STEM a more accessible field for everyone. Clubs at ETHS such as the junior chapters of National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) work closely with their corresponding student organizations at Northwestern. Northwestern students have also been involved with ETHS clubs Girls Who Code and She is Code.

“There’s so much to do, but I feel like we’re on the right track,” Bryant said.