This is the first guest blog from an undergraduate UM SWE member and former UM SWE president, Becca Cohn!
Today, I was struck by the care and compassion the L-SWE members have and their tangible visions for how they can better their communities. Kirsten, an undergraduate student leader in SWE at the University of Michigan, led a workshop to guide the L-SWE students though the process of planning an event. Groups of 5-6 members came up with a wide variety of professional development events that they defined, created agendas, budgets, etc.
Creating a STEM Career Fair for high schoolers was the most popular event idea. The purpose of this event was to inspire high school students to continue to focus on STEM and understand what STEM careers look like. The passion and commitment to developing and encouraging the youth to succeed inspired me. Establishing successful K-12 STEM outreach programs is a challenge that SWE Collegiate sections of various sizes and years of operation experience. Last year as I served as UM SWE president, the collegiate sections from across the Midwest worked together to pass on best-practices to improve the effectiveness of our outreach events. Even our own section struggles at times to get the number of volunteers needed to run our outreach events smoothly. But when 2/3 of the L-SWE groups planning events during today’s class come up with ideas to develop STEM interest in Liberian youth, it gives me a large amount of optimism that L-SWE will make STEM outreach a cornerstone in their organization and won’t struggle to get members to volunteer to run these events.
Of all the events that students planned, the event that intruiged me the most was called “Improving Disability to Ability”, a four-day workshop for disabled individuals to help them achieve their goals. This group also created a name for their organization called “Building Better Love in Liberia for Development and Growth.” I was impressed by this group’s idea for an event. I took a class last term that focused on identities and it was common for people to not know that there are more components to identity with than age, race/ethnicity, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and religion. Many people forget that dis/ability status is also a component to identity as many people identify as able-bodied. As an identity that is often stigmatized, it was refreshing to see L-SWE members openly speaking about disabilities and wanting to create a program to empower individuals with disabilities to reach their goals.