Pathways To Your Future: Exploring STEM Careers at Penn State York is a career awareness program for seventh grade girls, their teachers and parents which highlights opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program, which is free for participants, brings together young women and professional women from academia, medicine, government agencies, business and industry for a day of learner-centered, hands-on workshops. In addition, Pathways distributes printed materials and web site addresses to provide teachers and parents with information to guide young women toward college majors and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related fields.
We invite all of the middle schools (both public and private) in York County, two established groups of York County home schooled children, one bricks and mortar and two cyber charter schools (that enroll York County students), plus one middle school in Lancaster County (Manheim Township) to participate in our program. Each school may send, free of charge, ten girls, one teacher (female mathematics or science teachers are encouraged to attend) and one parent to the conference. Workshop assistants from Penn State York, workshop leaders, Penn State York alumni and Penn State York faculty and staff volunteer their time and talents to plan, coordinate and facilitate this conference.
Our program continues to grow every year. Pathways 2010 hosted 306 students, parents, and teachers from 27 different schools - the largest group of participants and the largest number of schools in the history of the program. Thirty-four (34) workshop presenters, 40 workshop assistants, conference coordinators/planners and multiple Penn State York staff members contributed to the success of the program.
The middle school participants are chosen by the school (usually by our teacher contact). Teachers use a variety of methods for selecting the girls to attend the conference: grades, lottery, essays, interest in college degrees in math, science, engineering and/or technology, teacher recommendation, etc. We ask the schools to select girls from all ability levels and to encourage girls to participate even though they may not yet show a genuine interest in college and/or mathematics and science. Our hope is that by engaging these girls in meaningful, hands-on activities, we will encourage more young women to consider a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics related (STEM) college major/career.
List of the
The titles of the twenty-one workshops offered at Pathways 2010 are listed below. Complete workshop descriptions are available in the conference brochure and in the workshops section of our website.
Measurement of Goals and Objectives
Most of the conference assessments are qualitative. Before leaving the conference, we ask each participant (student, teacher, parent, workshop leader, workshop assistant) to complete an evaluation form to assess their overall conference experience and workshop effectiveness.
In addition, we ask participants for suggestions to improve the conference and to choose, from a list, which person (for example, parent, teacher, guidance counselor, or friend) has the most influence over their college major/career choice. We ask teacher participants to complete another (follow-up) evaluation after they have returned to their respective schools and have met with the student participants to discuss the benefits of the conference. The responses to all of the forms are tabulated and categorized and are then discussed by the conference coordinators/planners. We use the results of the evaluations to determine the immediate effectiveness of the conference, to provide a workshop assessment to each workshop presenter, and to modify the conference program for the following year.
For the past fourteen years, this program has brought together students, teachers and parents from local middle schools; current students, professors, career counselors, administrators and alumni from Penn State; professors from other universities; individuals from Harrisburg and Baltimore area educational facilities; and people from businesses and industries for a most exciting, informative and rewarding day-long conference.
The Pathways program has given our campus an opportunity to reach out to the community with a free educational conference to encourage young women to pursue college majors/careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) related fields. Because of this community outreach, we recently formed a new partnership with the STEM Academy (for middle school students) that will start in the York City School District in Fall 2010.
Students have commented that, as a result of participating in this conference, they understand how important science, mathematics and technology are to their future success, and they now are considering college majors/careers that require these skills. We feel very strongly that we have “made a difference” and positively influenced the future college/career paths of many of the student participants from the local middle schools by providing worthwhile experiences and excellent female role models.