Look at what a STEM degree can do!

August 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

This 15-year-old in England got a bionic hand over the summer, which makes it easier for her to do things that she struggled with before like cutting up fruit with a knife or taking notes in class. She’s the youngest recipient of a bionic limb in Europe. I hope this inspires you to think about the ways you can change lives with your knowledge, skills, and research!

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Welcome Back!

August 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe that we are more than half way through our first week of the Fall Semester! Campus is buzzing with new faces and new opportunities, and I love it. What about you?

Here are three things I hope you will do in the weeks ahead:

  1. Yesterday I asked my GT1000 class to write a letter to themselves (an idea I got from my colleague, Stephanie Knight). I asked them to consider what they were feeling anxious, excited, scared, or hopeful about and to think about goals or things they hope to accomplish this year or in their time here at Tech.                                                                                                                                                I like this exercise for a lot of different reasons, but mostly, I hope my students will take away from it an understanding of the importance of articulating and reflecting on what they hope for, are a little scared about, or need. I think it’s a good exercise for us all, before we get mired in the day to day- the homework, the programs, the tests, the committees, and so on and so forth. I challenge you to do this exercise today. Write it all out, dream a little and be honest with yourself about your fears, and then tuck the letter away in your desk, in your journal, or wherever it will be safe and you’re likely to be able to locate it in May.  I think you’ll be surprised by the results.
  2. This morning, I read a great blog post written by one of my former professors. She created a list of 10 academic survival tips and things she wished she had known. The list is intended for women of color who are graduate students or professors- a group of women who face racism, sexism, and a whole host of microagressions and discrimination in academics. If you are one of these women, I urge you to check out her post. If you aren’t one of these women, I urge you to check out her post and be aware, glean some insight, be an ally, and take her strategies for survival to heart for yourself as well. Her frankness and sage advice is refreshing.
  3. Attend one of the Welcome Receptions for women at Georgia Tech. Come meet other women and start building your circle of support.  Oh, and don’t forget to invite other women you know.  We’ve got something for everybody, whether your a faculty/staff member or an undergraduate or graduate student. For more information or to RSVP (although you can always just show up) go to our website. And, did I mention we’ll have cheesecake at all of them? Seriously, we love cheesecake.

And while not on my official list of things for you to do, I hope you’ll stop by the WRC as well. We’d love to see you and  introduce you to our graduate assistant, Lesley (yay!) and our new student staff members.

Thinking About Talking to Girls

August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

In June, ABC News reported that almost half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. That’s right, you read that correctly,  pre-schoolers and kindergartners are worried about being fat- not worried about being healthy, not about what they can do with their bodies or what their bodies can do for them, but about being fat.

Author Lisa Bloom writes, “that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart.”Umm, what? No, seriously, that’s what the research shows. What this means is that girls and women start thinking about their bodies as potential beauty capital at a very young age and carry these thoughts with them throughout their adult lives.

These sociological constructions around beauty and our bodies are what keep us going back to the drug store for more cold cream to fight off wrinkles and mascara to make our eyelashes seem longer and plumper. They are also the same beauty constructions that make plastic surgery a multi-billion dollar industry each year. These are the constructions that tell women they will never be good enough, that they can always be better, that perfection is expected but that it can never be fully reached.

We are teaching them to little girls. We are teaching them to our daughters, to our nieces, to little girls sitting next to us on the bus or at gatherings with family and friends. You’re probably thinking, “Not me. I don’t do that. I don’t support beauty myths.” But inadvertently, you might. It might come in the form of a compliment about their shoes or how pretty their eyes are or telling them how nice they look when they are all dressed up. It seems familiar and really innocent doesn’t it?  You’re just breaking the ice, right?

Wrong. According to Bloom, “Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.” Yikes. Scary isn’t it?

So how do you break the ice with a little girl if you don’t tell her you really like her super cool skirt? For that matter how might you break the ice with another woman if you don’t say the same or similar thing to her upon your first meeting?

Bloom suggests asking, “What’s your favorite book?” or “Do you like to read?” Another blogger, writing in response to Bloom’s suggestions, likes to ask, “Have you been swimming this summer?” “Do you like animals?” “Do you know any jokes?”  Of an adult woman, I might ask, “Do you like to travel?” “Do play sports?”  “Do you like music?”

The possibilities are endless. Let’s not limit ourselves to communicating with women about beauty. Let’s find out who they are under their appearance, let’s challenge ourselves to a deeper connection. In the spirit of this, what are some of the questions you ask/would like to be asked when you first meet someone?

Where Am I?

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