Here on campus, Kristin Yvonne Rozier, Black & Veatch Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, brings her NASA research experience into her classroom and lab group, leading new innovations in autonomous flight.
Outside the classroom, she is also the Higher Education Voice of Jewels Academy, a Des Moines-based nonprofit with a mission of supporting underrepresented young women interested in pursuing STEM careers and education. Jewels Academy provides a learning and self-enriching environment for young women interested in STEM in order to support and cultivate a success in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, leadership, financial stewardship, and the arts.
How did you become involved with Jewels Academy?
I have been active in broadening participation in STEM for my entire career, from my involvement in a wide variety of NASA outreach and education programs during my time as a research scientist there, to judging science fairs/founding a science fair award, to mentoring female students at all levels, and working to support women and minorities in higher education. I am always looking for the places where I can have the most impact.
Shortly after joining ISU, I happened to sit behind a woman named Katrina Harden Williams at a STEM event and our conversation lead to her inviting me to organize educational activities at local outreach events, including the Girl Scouts’ “Galaxy Girls 3-2-1 Blast Off” day camp in 2017 and later at Des Moines’ “Investing in My Future: Bridging the Gap to College” program on STEM careers. Katrina also introduced me to Dr. Kimberly Wayne, the founder and Executive Director of Jewels Academy.
I have had the honor of serving on the Jewels Academy Board of Directors since 2020, and I am so excited to help support the mission of broadening participation in STEM, including more women, and a greater diversity of racial and ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses.
Why do you think it is important to encourage the next generation of women in STEM?
If we don’t have women in STEM, we are missing literally over 50% of the best ideas! In the end, as engineers, we are all innovators. The goal is to do what no one has done before.
By now, all of the one-person projects have been done. Modern engineering is fundamentally a team sport. In order to innovate, we need a diverse team, bringing together creative and forward-thinking ideas from a variety of viewpoints, educational backgrounds, and bodies of experience. If the engineering profession continues to be limited to a subset of those, then our innovations will similarly be limited. It is in all of our best interest to broaden participation in engineering to capture future great innovations.
What advice do you have to give young women interested in pursuing STEM education or careers?
Careers in STEM are extremely rewarding! You get to be creative like artists and writers, and then you get the incredibly rewarding experience of building something tangible, watching your creations actually work, and releasing them into the world to make people’s lives better. I can’t think of a better job!
To all of the perspective students reading this, don’t get discouraged when preparing for an engineering career: engineering courses are supposed to be hard. If engineering wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be so rewarding. And always remember that if you don’t see someone who looks like you seated at the engineering table, that just means it is even more important for you to build up the math and science background you need to be able to pull up a chair. When you do, the rest of us will be very happy to have you!