Girls Inc. camp at Richland, UT Dallas to give girls inspiration, opportunities in STEM fields

This summer, Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas is giving middle school girls an amazing opportunity to explore science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) concepts and a pathway to higher education through a partnership with Richland College and The University of Texas at Dallas – Science and Engineering Education Center (SEEC).

The three organizations worked together to develop the Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp, a two-week learning experience for 20 Dallas-area girls entering 8th grade, to expand the horizons of the young women selected to participate.

“Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp will awaken the potential in middle school girls as they explore the life of a full-time college student and discover opportunities in STEM fields,” says Lori Palmer, CEO of Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas. “We encourage girls to explore STEM fields because research demonstrates that women employed in STEM careers earn an average of 33 percent more than those employed in other fields.”

Bernine Khan, UT Dallas’ SEEC director, says the camp is designed to help girls dream big. The University of Texas at Dallas is ascending the ranks, quickly becoming recognized as one of the top schools by the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings. While the university is distinguished for its strength in STEM education and research, females make up only about 43 percent of the student body.

“Females, in general, represent a hugely untapped resource of potential STEM professionals in our nation, and when compounded with low socio-economic and cultural issues, the pathway to a successful STEM career is stymied,” Dr. Khan says. “The program introduces these girls to the flavors of STEM careers through interactions with female STEM professionals. If the girls ultimately choose a non-STEM field, it will be an informed choice with the full knowledge that their intrinsic ability had no bearing on their decision.”

The first week of the Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp, held June 16-20 at Richland College, will focus on “Water: Ubiquitous and Unique.” The girls will explore the various properties of Earth’s most important resource in the contexts of sustainability and ecology. The curriculum includes experiential learning activities in the sciences as well as in 3-D art, learning strategies and college readiness skills. Each afternoon, the girls will learn about the physics and fun behind the hula hoop.

Sherry Dean, Richland College speech communication professor and Girls Inc. board member, says Richland College administrators see the camp as an intentional effort to grow and nurture future female scientists and engineers while introducing the girls to a route more and more students take to pursue higher education – the community college experience. Richland has some 20,000 credit students and offers a dual-credit charter high school.

“Many people do not know that 42 percent of all first-time college freshman in 2013 were enrolled at two-year institutions such as Richland College,” Dr. Dean says. “We anticipate that many Girls Inc. girls will also make Richland an important part of their higher education experience.”

The second week of the Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp (June 22-27) will immerse girls in campus life at UT Dallas. The girls will live in university dorm suites, find out what it takes to apply for college and participate in learning activities in bioengineering, nanotechnology, forensic science, robotics and space science.

At UT Dallas, the girls also will have the opportunity to connect with STEM professionals from the university and Dallas’ business community. Evenings will be filled with fun activities such as karaoke, Zumba and movies. The week culminates with a field trip to Texas Instruments.

Learn more about Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas at www.girlsincdallas.org, Richland College at www.richlandcollege.edu and The University of Texas at Dallas at www.utdallas.edu.