Underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in the United States include women and some minorities. In the U.S., women made up 50% of the college-educated workers in 2010, but only 28% of the Science and Engineering workers, and African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Hispanics collectively formed 26% of the population, but account for only 10% of the Science and Engineering workers (U.S. News, 2014). But thank God for STEM Leaders like Shauna Brown! In this re.engineer Q and A session, Shauna will share some of her insights on how she has challenged the status quo and also how she is using her professional experiences to prepare the next generation of Melanin in STEM!
Shauna Brown is the Assistant Director of the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, a STEM-themed magnet program for pre-college/pre-career students. In this leadership and management role, Shauna is responsible for leading and overseeing operational, instructional, and programmatic aspects of the program of 800 students and 120 staff. She has served in this role for 5 years, and is the first woman in the history of the academy to hold this position. In addition to her professional work, Shauna is the founder of Melanin in STEM, an organization whose mission is to increase representation in STEM through early exposure, mentoring initiatives, and professional networking.
Shauna earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from Temple University, and a Master of Arts Degree from Columbia University in the City of New York. As a math and science lover, and an “engineer at heart”, Shauna has always had an interest in learning about how things work, and developing innovative solutions to various problems. She has a passion for community development and for sharing her love learning with others.
Shauna Brown is the recipient of the Community Education Award, a Community Leadership Award, and most recently; the 100 Women of Color Award in 2019. She has volunteered with organizations such as Black Girls Code, Sisters in Science, Educational programs, and Voter Registration drives, and she is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. In her spare time, Shauna enjoys photography, DIY projects, retail therapy, and enjoying the outdoors.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a STEM movement?
Shauna: I have always had a great love for STEM, and a passion for getting others excited about STEM as well. There are so many pathways and careers related to STEM, but through my work I was finding that many people, especially many of our pre-college students were not fully aware of the multitude of opportunities within STEM. Furthermore, I was finding that some of our pre-college scholars were not necessarily seeing STEM as something “for them”, and they were not seeing themselves reflected in many of the STEM professionals who they had a chance to interact with. In 2016, I was doing some research for a presentation which I would be presenting at a national conference, and that is when the data and lack of representation in the research (particularly for women of color in STEM) really hit me. It was at that moment that I started “Melanin in STEM”, first as a hashtag movement, and then as an organization! I wanted to change the narrative about people of color and women being “underrepresented” in STEM, and about the lack of diversity in STEM being “pipeline problem”, by showing the world that: YES, STEM IS DOPE, and YES, EVERYONE BELONGS, and YES, YOU CAN DO IT, and YES, WE ARE OUT HERE!!!
Q: With respect to minority progression in STEM what are some of the barriers that need to be broken?
Shauna: It all starts with access to high-quality educational opportunities and solid. In doing some research, I was shocked to learn about the percentage of schools (serving high-minority populations) that do not offer advanced level courses in mathematics, that do not offer computer science courses, or that do not have adequate science lab space or materials. Communities of color have ALWAYS been innovative. In many cases it is just a matter of access and exposure which acts as a barrier, but the world of technology is changing all of that! Technology is going to break those barriers wide open!
Q: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs or professionals?
Shauna: Stay curious, and focus on solutions!
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Shauna: Honestly, what keeps me up at night is my desire to squeeze the most that I can out of each and every day. Whenever I get a chance I am reading, learning, or creating.
Q: How are you driving innovation or productivity in your career?
Shauna: One of the ways that I am driving innovation in my career, is by creating the structure for people from different disciplines and diverse perspectives to come together and tackle problems together. With diverse perspectives at the table, we strengthen both productivity and innovation, by building solutions that are stronger and more encompassing. You “catch” more when you have diverse perspectives looking at the same thing!
Our re.engineer family has been following Shauna and Melanin in STEM organization for several months and we are quite impressed with what this organization has done with respect to pushing the STEM culture forward. It was our honor to share these perspectives with the community at large and we hope that this featured Q & A session will inspire others to Stay Curious and Focus on Solutions! Shauna, thank for being a voice in our community and your work to re.engineer our views on POC and their progression in STEM proves that you are a certified re.engineer!
To find more information on Melanin in STEM go to their social media pages: Facebook, Instagram
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