AN INTERVIEW WITH CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER ALIYAH HIRJI.
What is STEM?
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Please describe STEM Without Boundaries in 1-2 sentences.
STEM Without Boundaries is a nonprofit organization that is committed to inspiring students to pursue their interests in STEM through our outreach programs, STEM resources, and STEM Nights hosted by our Chapters globally.
How and why did your Leadership Team / BODs come together to create this non-profit organization? Where did the need come from, or what was that a-ha moment?
STEM Without Boundaries was founded to help more communities with STEM education and to bring STEM Nights to more students globally. As the pandemic began and individuals everywhere were isolated, I saw that there was a need for more STEM education resources for younger students. This inspired me and our other Board Directors to ensure that our programs and activities are widely accessible and beneficial to students of all ages. Our STEM Without Boundaries Team has created numerous opportunities for learning that helps students continue their education in STEM in an engaging way. Our STEM Handouts, Tech Series, and Virtual STEM Nights ensure that students are being introduced to STEM and seeing representation from our diverse panelists and partners we work with.
Can you share one of your favorite memories from STEM Without Boundaries so far? Is there a particular student success story that stands out? Any unexpected delights?
Yes! One of my favorite memories from STEM Without Boundaries has been interviewing panelists for our Tech Series. Hearing their stories, inspirational STEM journeys, and advice was extremely motivating. In the moment, I thought about how everything our panelists discussed will inspire and motivate numerous students who are watching, just as it inspired me greatly as I was speaking with them. From the their brave stories about how they pursued STEM as a career, to the motivating things they are currently working on within STEM, the Tech Series is an extremely inspirational activity that any student can take part in. It clicked with me as I was speaking to these panelists that what we’re creating can be the seed to a young student’s future in STEM.
From your COO perspective, what has been the biggest challenge STEM Without Boundaries has had to overcome? How did you and the team overcome it?
I believe the biggest challenge STEM Without Boundaries has had to overcome is learning how to reach students and inspire them through a virtual setting. Previously, our STEM Nights were in-person and extremely interactive, similar to a carnival or fair. However, because of the pandemic, our team had to adapt our Chapter Program to train Chapter Presidents on how to successfully organize and host a Virtual STEM Night - something we’ve never done before. Over the summer, I worked with our Communications Team to help us make this change in order to support our Chapters better through the pandemic and continue to give students the opportunity to participate in engaging STEM activities with their families.
In addition to STEM Nights hosted by local chapters, you offer virtual STEM activities including printable handouts. How else have you had to shift your methods during the pandemic to continue supporting your mission?
Our team strives to ensure that our STEM Handouts and our Tech Series, as well as our educational YouTube videos created by our Media Team, are all available for any students and families to access and benefit from. I have been working with our Technology Team especially to ensure that all STEM resources are easily available to our STEM Without Boundaries community through our website and various other platforms. One of my goals for our STEM resources, for example, has been for students to print out a STEM Handout from our website anytime they want in order to provide an at-home experiment. Through this, they can engage with their family as a way to continue STEM education and fill the gaps of virtual learning that many students are experiencing.
How can readers get their kids involved in STEM today, and what benefits should they expect?
We love expanding our STEM Without Boundaries community and we encourage everyone to stay connected with us on our platforms for new programs and resources, announcements on upcoming STEM Nights, and our application seasons.
Students of all ages can visit our website to access our STEM Handouts filled with fun at-home experiments, our Tech Series that provides inspirational stories and advice from over 30 panelists, and our YouTube videos that highlight tips on how to study for upcoming AP/IB exams, beginner resources for students that want to learn how to code, and more!
I’m so excited to announce that I am working with the STEM Without Boundaries Team on a new Career Series that will be launched soon! Our Career Series will help students interested in STEM learn about numerous diverse careers and fields and hear from our panelists. This is a great opportunity for anyone who is interested in STEM to explore what interests them and how they can get involved in various STEM fields starting now!
Students who are interested in joining our team as a Director or an Executive Director can stay tuned as our Leadership Team applications are releasing soon! We have numerous diverse teams that students can choose to apply for based on what they are interested in and how they would like to support the STEM Without Boundaries mission!
In addition, we encourage all high school students to start a Chapter to bring STEM Nights and other educational activities to younger children in their local community! Students that would like to participate in our Chapter Program and start a Chapter in their community can apply through the Interest Form on our website by May 21, 2021.
What does the future of STEM look like to you?
I am hopeful that the future of STEM will be filled with diverse minds united and working together to make our world and all our communities a better place through the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. I’m excited that STEM Without Boundaries’ initiatives inspire younger generations to pursue careers in STEM from a very early age and I am confident that this will change the future of STEM to be even more inclusive and innovative.
In honor of Women's History Month, is there anything you can share about STEM Without Boundaries efforts to get more girls involved in STEM?
We strive to ensure that our resources and programs, such as our Tech Series and Instagram Takeovers, show representation of women from many diverse backgrounds so that young girls especially know that there is a place for them in the STEM community. Part of STEM Without Boundaries’ mission is to help inspire girls globally to be fearless and know that the STEM Without Boundaries community, and other STEM communities as well, is one that they will be welcomed to and valued in.
Women make up nearly half the U.S. workforce, but only 27% of STEM workers - up from 8% nearly 50 years ago. Read more here.
You can learn more about STEM Without Boundaries here.
You may also email Aliyah directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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