Two Ohio University programs receive ‘2018 Inspiring Programs in STEM’ award


ATHENS — Two Ohio University programs have received the 2018 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.

Tech Savvy OHIO, for girls in grades 6-9 from the Appalachian region in Ohio and West Virginia, is full day of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities with real scientists. The program is sponsored by the AAUW, initially by a national AAUW grant and now by the local chapter of the AAUW.

The Aspiring DOctors Precollege Program at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cleveland is a comprehensive three-year pipeline program for underrepresented minority high school students from Cleveland-area schools who are interested in careers in health care and science. The program offers a mix of academic STEM enrichment, personal mentoring and hands-on learning activities.

“Connecting our nation’s young minds with opportunities for STEM education is of critical importance, and these awards demonstrate the great work being done within each program by our students, faculty and staff,” said Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis. “I am proud that OHIO’s efforts to provide STEM education for youth are being recognized on a national level.”

The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Ohio University will be featured, along with 77 other recipients, in the September 2018 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

Tech Savvy OHIO

“More than 90 girls attended our fifth year of Tech Savvy here at OHIO in May,” said Dr. Sarah Wyatt, founder of the event at OHIO and Professor of Environmental & Plant Biology. “It’s inspiring to us as faculty to see young girls and their parents come to explore and kindle a passion for science and experimentation in workshops (led by OHIO faculty) on Decoding DNA, CSI Athens, Restoring Rusty Rivers, and much more.”

Wyatt added thanks to the more than 80 volunteers – faculty, students and members of the Athens community and Athens branch of AAUW – needed to make Tech Savvy happen. “The investment pays off in the smiles and excitement of the girls who participate,” she said.

“Having renowned women scientists from our faculty leading hands-on activities with lasers, cosmic rays, bridge-building and more helps open the eyes of girls and their parents to the exciting opportunities that exist for careers in science,” said Dr. Joseph Shields, Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Wyatt noted that many girls come back to Tech Savvy year after year, and several have come back as volunteers.

In addition to the assistance provided by the American Association of University Women, Tech Savvy is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity, the Women’s Center, and the departments of Environmental & Plant Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Physics & Astronomy and the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The Aspiring DOctors Precollege Program

Launched in 2016, the Aspiring DOctors program has attracted funding support from entities including the St. Luke’s Foundation, the Cyrus Eaton Foundation, the city of Warrensville Heights, and the state of Ohio’s Community Connectors program, which awarded Aspiring DOctors an $83,000 grant in 2017.

Shortly after the campus welcomed its first medical students in July 2015, Isaac Kirstein, D.O., dean of the Heritage College, Cleveland, challenged staffers to come up with a comprehensive plan to increase underrepresented minority enrollment. In response, Terra Ndubuizu, senior director of campus administration at the college’s Cleveland campus, and Samantha Baker, assistant director of admissions and outreach, designed the Aspiring DOctors program after studying pipeline programs at other medical schools.

The program graduated its first senior class in 2017, when 12 young men and women from Warrensville Heights High School, who were in the initial set of Cleveland-area high school students to take part in Aspiring DOctors, completed the program and headed to college, most of them aiming at careers in health care. Thanks to funding from program supporters, each of these students received a scholarship to further their education.

Ndubuizu, who directs the Aspiring DOctors program, called it “truly inspiring” to follow the first students’ progress. “I watched firsthand as this program gave the students increased levels of confidence, self-awareness, motivation and engagement about their education and their future,” she said.

Kirstein has said the program represents “a big part of how we define ourselves at the Cleveland campus of the Heritage College. It validates the priority we at Ohio University place on partnering with, and improving, the communities we call home.”