LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 10, 2019) — The College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of women in STEM. That's why the college has designed several K-12 outreach initiatives, two of which are being offered this spring and summer.
On May 18-19, girls from second through fifth grade and their mothers, or other female role models, will take part in Go Girl! UK Engineering's sleepover. This overnight event will feature hands-on activities intended to let creativity and imagination shine. Participants will even get to spend the night in Woodland Glen III — a UK residence hall where the Engineering Living Learning Program is housed.
Go Girl! offers a supportive environment to explore a new academic world — the world of engineering. Girls should leave the event with a better understanding of what engineering is and what engineers do, while ultimately gaining more confidence to play an active role in their STEM education.
"My hope is that by creating an enthusiastic, noncompetitive space for girls to have fun while learning, they can see that engineering is truly a dynamic and creative career choice," Micaha Hughes, director of outreach and community engagement with UK Engineering, said. "Many of the participants will have never been on a college campus, and they get to spend the night here while having a familiar face with them the whole time."
Hughes, who graduated from UK in 2015, is the first director of outreach and community engagement for the college. The recently created position reflects the increased commitment to engineering outreach efforts, particularly to young females.
In addition to leading Women in Engineering (WiE) workshops, Hughes took a more ambitious step in the summer of 2018 — a weeklong residential camp called WiE Explore.
"Academic learning is only part of the equation for major selection and eventual student success. The residential camp allows for additional social engagement and campus acclimation opportunities for participants, to help them strengthen their engineering identity and make UK feel like a place they can call home in future years," Hughes said.
From June 16-22, high school girls are invited take part in WiE Explore. Campers will get a glimpse of life on campus, while learning more about all nine UK engineering majors. The week will also feature hands-on activities, such as designing metal alloy UK logos in materials engineering.
"This was a really unique experience, to be able to explore different disciplines for multiple hours," Alana, a former WiE Explore participant, said. "It was great being there for a whole week, learning about engineering and getting a taste for what college engineering would be like — without being too overwhelmed."
In addition to academic programming, WiE Explore offers recreational and social activities that mirror the undergraduate experience. Campers will visit local engineering companies and meet professional female engineers, while also forming close friendships.
"It’s belief, not ability, that makes girls think STEM is not for them," Hughes said. "If we can create space for girls to feel confident in STEM, we will all benefit from more diverse teams with better ideas and more innovation."
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for," and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.