Breaking barriers one STEM at a time

Allyson Watson, dean of the College of Education at FAMU
Photo Submitted by Vanessa Lawrence

Florida A&M is the latest university to jump on the bandwagon to join the alliance of Florida universities that have secured National Science Foundation funding to increase the number of women of color on university faculty in the fields of science, technology engineering, and math (STEM).

The grant, created by FAMU College of Education Dean Allyson Watson, along with her colleagues, was proposed in 2018 when Watson at University of South Florida. Although the grant was not approved initially, the dean and her team displayed resilience and determination. After critical revision, the team proposed the grant again in 2019 where it was approved.

As a woman of color in a leadership role, with a background in STEM education, Watson pushes to continue the STEM education pathway to girls across the country in different areas.

“It is important for me to pour into people who also look like me,” said Watson.

FAMU plans to partner with the organization Sisters of the Academy to participate in their research boot camp that helps develop scholars and provide them with tools they need to have a lucrative career.

“We not only want to increase the number of women in the STEM pipeline, for the doctoral program, but then when they finish the doctorate, we want to provide them with support to say now we want you to stay here,” said Watson.

The number of women of color in the STEM field is not where it should be, but step by step, opportunities are unfolding for minorities.

Fredricka Tucker, a biology major, believes there’s never been a better time to be a woman of color in the sciences.

“More minority women need to be involved more in the STEM field to give younger girls a depiction of a great role model for them to see they can go to school to become doctors, physicians, and nurses,” she said. “There are great resources, but you have to take advantage of them on your own.”

The amount of school work that comes with being a STEM major can be intimidating, but junior chemistry/pre dental major Jada Lloyd assures aspiring STEM students that you can still have a life outside of academics.

“You can step outside the box of just being a STEM major and explore everything else FAMU has to offer. We need more encouragement, support, vulnerability, and transparency so we can keep these minority women in STEM,” said Lloyd.

FAMU hopes to bridge the gap between women of color in the STEM field and raise the bar high for young girls all over the world. FAMU STEM students say the resources and materials available to them are nothing short of amazing.