Academic institutions across the country are seeking ways to lessen the underrepresentation of minority leadership in science, technology, engineering and math. West Virginia University’s Joel Mejia, assistant professor of freshman engineering, recently attended the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Sciences’ Summer Leadership Institute to become a part of the movement.

“I want to become a part of the next generation of minority STEM leaders,” said Mejia. “The opportunity to attend the Leadership Institute gave me the knowledge and tools I need to serve my community and empower underrepresented students and professionals in STEM.”

The Institute, held July 20-24, at the American Association for Advancement of Science headquarters in Washington, D.C., featured group exercises, development planning and networking activities. Keynote speakers included Monica Ramirez Basco, assistant director for neuroscience, mental health and broadening participation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Science magazine.

“The Institute helped me realize the value of engaging in difficult conversations related to STEM education and underrepresentation because they are necessary to generate transformative initiatives,” said Mejia. “I also learned the importance of establishing a professional development plan, which is something I will use in my classroom. I want each of my students to develop their own plan to become a successful professional that they can use for a road map throughout their time at WVU and in their careers.”

Admittance to the Institute is competitive; only 30 doctoral-level scientists that have demonstrated their commitment to advancing the minority STEM community are selected to attend each year. Institute alumni are the largest cohort of emerging STEM leaders of color in the country and are executive directors, entrepreneurs, senior scientists and emerging policy leaders throughout the industry.

“Working with students from all different social and economic backgrounds has impressed upon me the importance of culturally responsive education and initiatives that can help increase diversity,” said Mejia. “I am eager to bring this cause to the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and find ways to encourage more underrepresented students to pursue careers in STEM.”



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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