NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 26, 2013) – During a Women’s History Month event today at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Headquarters, employees in attendance learned more about the district’s partnership with the Middle Tennessee STEM Hub and celebrated women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Vicki H. Metzgar, STEM director at the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, a public and private collaboration designed to promote and expand the teaching and learning of STEM education in the state’s public schools, spoke about the program and partnership with organizations like the Corps.
She talked about women STEM pioneers that have had a huge impact on society and then encouraged and challenged everyone to become a supporter and encourager for someone such as a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or colleague to become a STEM star.
“There’s a shortage of STEM majors everywhere,” Metzgar said. “We need engineers. We need mathematicians and scientists, computer programmers. Everywhere across the country they are needed.”
Metzgar said kids need an opportunity to experience and get involved with STEM work. “The Corps is one of the best examples I know where there is a wide variety of different types of fields people can enter and then have professional careers,” she said.
In the Corps there are geologists, hydrologists, mechanical engineers, biologists, and much more, Metzgar said. “The opportunities are endless in the Corps.”
The Nashville District is hosting Tennessee educators this summer who plan to work alongside some of the district’s scientists, engineers and operators to learn about the Corps and to further develop the STEM program.
“We really want our teachers to understand the kinds of variety of jobs that you have going on here at the Corps so they can take back those real-world experiences to the kids in their classroom,” Metzgar said.
Lt. Col. Patrick Dagon, Nashville District deputy commander, also spoke of women who influenced him to pursue a career field heavy in math and science.
He recognized Sally Ride, the first U.S. female astronaut, who served as a mission specialist on STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida June 18, 1983. She also served as a member of the presidential commission investigating the 1986 Challenger accident, which claimed the life of school teacher Christa McAuliffe.
Dagon said McAuliffe’s death touched him and many other children when he was in school, and also influenced him. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1996.
“I remember her as an influential woman leader in STEM,” Dagon said about McAuliffe and her quest to teach students through her participation with the NASA mission that ended in tragedy.
The deputy commander also noted his admiration for several notable women teachers and his mother who all shaped his academic interests.
“I’m sure we’ve all got examples like that of people who got us interested as we were growing up,” Dagon said.
Dagon also noted that the Nashville District has a history of notable women that have made significant impacts in STEM career fields.
“We had the first woman park ranger here in Nashville. And what I thought was interesting as a side note to that, is it encouraged the Corps to redesign the park ranger uniforms,” he added.
He said women have made inroads as civil engineers, geologists, lock masters, and power plant superintendents. “So we’ve really led the way as a district,” Dagon said.
Emily Carr, chief of the Nashville District’s Soils and Dam Safety Section, shared during the event that her mom was a science major in college in botany and chemistry and she made a point to teach and encourage her to learn.
“My parents always encouraged me that I could do whatever I wanted, whatever field of study,” Carr said. “And even though I didn’t grow up knowing any engineers personally, that is where my interest leaned and, you know, they did not discourage me at all. And that probably made a big difference in me ending up as an engineer.”
Educators are encouraged to visit the Nashville District’s website for more information on partnering with the Corps to inspire kids to pursue careers in scientific and engineering fields. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also has resources about Women in STEM.