Friday, May 5, 2017

Own It! Awards

On April 18th the legacy of women in STEM at the University of Wyoming was celebrated at the second annual Own It! Awards presented by Wyoming EPSCoR and WIMSE. This newly founded event acknowledges the strides women have made in STEM research, scholarship, and education on campus and in the community.

As you walked into the Enzi STEM center, it was obvious scientists had taken over the building. Newspaper parachutes were falling from the second story floor, children surrounded the augmented reality sand box, while others took turns identifying animal bones. One group was even bedazzling safety goggles. This year the Own it! Award included an interactive discovery center before the ceremony began. The atrium was filled with different groups demonstrating their science and sharing it with faculty, staff, families, and children. From zoology to engineering; attendees had the chances to explore STEM disciplines from across campus. 

The ceremony opened with comments from President Laurie Nichols. She welcomed attendees and presented the first ever Antell Diversity in STEM award to Judy Antell. Dr. Antell was founding director of the University of Wyoming's American Indian Studies Program. Even after 'retiring' in 2014, she partnered with Wyoming EPSCoR to direct UW's High Plains American Indian Research Institute, or HPAIRI. The vision she has held for over two decades is becoming a reality with the opening of UW's American Indian Center in Fall of 2017. Her commitment to making a place for Native American people has left a lasting legacy here at UW. 

After receiving nominations from across campus, the nomination committee met to rank each nominee based on their work and contributions in the STEM field. Award winners stood out in for their mentorship, research, engaged outreach, and overall grit.

Awards were given in a variety of categories including:
Undergraduate student: Cena Miller
Graduate student: Jimena Golcher-Benavides
Entrepreneur: Jaycey Lindsey
STEM professional: Elizabeth Traver
Non-traditional student: Sophia Kwende
Faculty Pre-tenure: Randa Jabbour
Faculty Tenure: Merav benDavid

In addition to the Own It awards, Kelly Walsh high school student Kyra Smith was honored with the National Center for Women in Information Technology with the Aspiration in Computing Award

With the success of last year’s event, women in the UW’s STEM community were eager to carry on the tradition. The event underlines the importance of visibility in STEM fields for women, highlighting the disparities that increase as women complete their studies and enter the job market. Palentologist Dr. Ellen Currano worked to draw attention to the minority of females in STEM fields by developing the Bearded Lady Project. The film, which premiered this year, was developed to change the face of women in science by using false beards. Currano shared her story of challenging stereotypes in a fun and creative way at last year’s event and is continuing to Own It.

The legacy Wyoming EPSCoR has founded with the Own It! Awards we be carried on and will continue to support and enrich the women in the STEM community for years to come.