Dr. Sophie Janes ’12 remembers when she first realized she could have a career in STEM.
“I was in Mr. Hayes’ ninth-grade biology class and it just clicked for me,” she said. “I realized I really liked science.”
Dr. Janes is now an OB/GYN resident at the University of Utah, and she returned to Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street Campus on March 17 to talk to current students about how they, too, can find a place in science, tech, engineering, and math—or STEM.
We want students to see themselves reflected in different role models and in different fields. We want them to know they can successfully navigate career pathways they are passionate about.—Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion
Dr. Janes, a representative from the medical field, was one of the speakers who attended the school’s first annual The Future of STEM: A Symposium with Local Innovators event, a program held in honor of Women’s History Month. She was joined by physician Dr. Tricia Petzold (medicine) and mathematics professor Dr. Priyam Patel (math), as well as teachers Ben Smith ’89 (computer science), Dr. Padmashree Rida (biology), and Christian Waters (technology); Great Salt Lake Institute Coordinator Carly Biedul (environmental science) was also scheduled to attend, though she had to cancel due to illness. The event was set up so students could meet with women currently working in STEM, learn about various career paths, and find out how to get started on their own pathways to STEM careers, while also supporting peers along the way. The event’s keynote speaker, tech CEO and incoming Rowland Hall Board Chair Sarah Lehman, advised the group to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” to not be afraid to stake their claims in fields that interest them, and, when faced with challenges, to "focus on what is important to you and let other things roll off."
The symposium included a goal of encouraging historically underrepresented individuals to pursue their interests in STEM fields, including seeking out mentors who are doing work that is exciting to them. One of the sessions was on how women can navigate these fields, while another explored how to be an ally and make STEM more inclusive to a variety of people. “We want students to see themselves reflected in different role models and in different fields,” said Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion. “We want them to know they can successfully navigate career pathways they are passionate about.”
Dr. Patel said the STEM symposium was only the first of what she hopes will be many events aimed at bringing community leaders and professionals to the school to share with students career options and opportunities the students may not have even considered. Events like these underscore the importance of building strong partnerships to create learning opportunities, both in and out of the classroom.
“I am so glad to be able to help show them what’s possible and what steps they need to take,” said Dr. Janes. “I want them to be brave and make the most of the opportunities available to them.”