Pioneer Spotlight - Kim Sargent
Kim Sargent, program manager in Women in Engineering, Mathematics and Science, earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics/computer science from Central College, in Pella, Iowa, and her master’s in adult education from UW-Platteville. She joined UW-Platteville in 2008 as an adjunct math instructor, and in 2011 transitioned to the UW-Platteville Women in EMS Program, which helps educate and engage students, parents and all educators on gender diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields to create a more diverse, competitive and balanced workforce.
What drew you to your current position?
As a mathematics major in college, I was never sure what I should do with that degree outside of teaching. So, I became a middle and high school math teacher. I loved teaching, but if someone had told me about engineering and encouraged me to enter that field, I may have become an engineer.
What type of satisfaction do you get from helping women in the EMS program?
I love working with college students and mentoring them in STEM majors. I feel that I can make a difference in women’s lives by supporting and encouraging them to continue in their STEM major.
How has the Women in EMS Program grown and what made that possible?
Enrollment of women in engineering programs has increased by over 50 percent in the last three years. I believe that the initiatives that we are doing has led to those increases. We have five STEM outreach programs for six through 12th grade girls. These programs expose young girls to potential careers in STEM and also provide opportunities for our Women in EMS students to mentor the girls. We also have women students who are EMS majors, give tours and have lunches with prospective female students. This gives an excellent opportunity for us to showcase the Women in EMS Mentor Center and Mentor Program and the Women in STEM Living Learning Community, which are all retention programs created to keep women in STEM majors. There are many opportunities for the women to get support, encouragement and mentoring through these programs.
What are some of the misconceptions younger women have about the STEM fields?
The misconception that bothers me the most is that women are not as good at math and science as men. This is just not true. Young girls do just as well in math and science in elementary school but start to lose interest by middle school. The perceptions that engineering and other STEM fields are difficult, boring, individualistic and for men only discourage women from these careers. We need to teach girls and women that they are obtainable, interesting, collaborative fields that need a woman’s perspective. We live in an ever-increasing global society and engineers create products and processes for everyone. We need a diverse workforce to maximize creativity and innovation. Studies show that diverse teams improve performance and decision making because we all have different experiences and ideas to bring to the table. More and more companies are recognizing that and looking to diversify their teams.
How does UW-Platteville assist women with integrating into the EMS program?
We invite all women in the college to participate in any of our programs such as the living learning communities, Mentor Program and Society of Women Engineers. We also encourage them to spend time in the WEMS Mentor Center to network, get help in classes, share experiences with other women in EMS and make friends with similar interests, struggles and experiences. They can also give back and help other girls by volunteering in our outreach programs. We also suggest men and women take the Women in Engineering and Science general education class where they can learn about women’s issues in STEM, the progress we have made and the barriers we need to still overcome.
Interview conducted by: Dan Wackershauser, University Information and Communications.
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