By Elizabeth Egan
Published November 14, 2023
Sixty high school students visited the University at Buffalo campus to experience hands-on activities, tour student clubs and UB's North Campus, and learn what it is like to be a college student during UB Women in Science and Engineering’s (WiSE) STEM Outreach Program, Campus Day.
Funded through a grant from Amazon, the program connects University at Buffalo student mentors with students at seven local high schools: Niagara Falls High School, North Tonawanda High School, Amherst Central High School, Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, Leonardo Da Vinci High School, City Honors School and Hutchinson Central Technical High School.
This year, 20 student mentors were selected, doubling the amount from the previous year.
Throughout the six-week program, UB student mentors visited each of the schools to speak to mentees about being a woman in STEM. During the final week, the mentees visited UB.
“The goal of the program is to help the students explore STEM,” said Sarah Baillie, WiSE program director. “We want to help students learn more about STEM and provide students with a mentor if they don’t already know somebody involved in the field.”
The high school students were bussed to campus and started the day with a club fair. Various STEM clubs prepared hands-on activities for the students to enjoy, including popsicle stick catapults and a series of puzzles in an online escape room.
After the club fair the mentees explored campus with their mentors.
The mentors took students to areas across the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, including the Digital Manufacturing Lab, while also adding personal touches, like their favorite spots on campus to eat and study.
The day ended with lunch and a student panel where UB students answered common questions about being college students as well as women in STEM, and also opened the floor for the high schoolers to ask their own questions.
Laney Wieclaw, the WiSE STEM Outreach Program graduate assistant, said a moment from the day that stood out was when a PhD student on the panel discussed her experience standing up for her work while being the only woman on a group project. She encouraged the young women in the audience to not be afraid to stand up for their work and to be confident in the face of skepticism. Wieclaw said the remarks were met with an eruption of applause.
“Our students found tremendous value in the WiSE STEM Outreach Program,” said Alyssa Hawkins, a school counselor at North Tonawanda High School. “It instills leadership, confidence and empowerment for women considering a career in STEM. The students were grateful to have mentors in graduate programs who were willing and open to share their experiences as a female in a predominantly male field. Their ability to offer advice and first-hand knowledge of the college admissions process, programs, job opportunities, and research was influential for guiding our students' futures.”
The outreach program will continue into the spring semester with the high school students being invited back to campus in April.