Centre GEMS initiative featured by Kentucky National Science Foundation program

The KY NSF EPSCoR—Kentucky’s chapter of the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research—recently featured Centre College students and faculty in a video about a student-led initiative to encourage local girls to study the sciences.

Centre student Ceci Vollbrecht ’17, a chemistry major, founded Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS), which gives Centre students the opportunity to help local girls explore STEM fields—that is, science, technology, engineering and math. The Centre students involved with GEMS lead after-school programs in local schools that show girls how interesting the sciences can be.

“We know that the middle school is one of the places where we lose a lot of women and girls from the STEM fields,” says Centre Assistant Professor of Chemistry Leonard Demoranville in the NSF video. “There are women here at Centre studying science topics themselves who wanted to reach out and serve as mentors for those younger girls in middle school to show them … you can continue in the STEM field as a woman and be really successful.”

GEMS has grown immensely over the past few years, with after school programs in both local middle schools as well as new programs in regional elementary schools. Vollbrecht enjoys hearing from teachers how GEMS has affected the girls in the program.

“Their teachers say, ‘Oh, they talk more in class now.’ They relate what we’ve done in GEMS to what they’re doing in class,” she says in the video. “It’s great hearing that it’s helping the girls be more confident in themselves and be more engaged in their science.”

Kentucky is one of 25 states and three territories with an NSF EPSCoR program in place.

by Elizabeth Trollinger
June 22, 2016