The Research Triangle Park

2018 STEM Industry Summit in Review

By Author Mar 07, 2018

On February 23rd, STEM in the Park hosted our 2nd annual STEM Industry Summit with 50 attendees representing 35 organizations in the local area.  With the theme of ‘Preparing your Future Workforce: The Power of STEM Outreach’, we unpacked topics relating to Cisco’s global perspective of STEM engagement, the business value of STEM outreach through the eyes of four panelists, and hosted breakouts focusing on employee mobilization and tech tools in outreach. The ultimate goal of the STEM Industry Summit was to empower local companies, large and small, to grow and expand their impact within their communities through STEM outreach and engagement.

Our keynote speaker, Kirsten Weeks, the Director of Global Community Relations at Cisco, spoke extensively on the benefits and resources brought about by their globally impactful STEM engagement activities. She touched on many staff-led programs, including Girls Power Tech, which not only exposes youth to STEM but encourages employee talent development through working in leadership positions and groups to implement community programs.  Within Cisco, outreach happens within the purpose of ‘leaving no talent behind’ and breaks down the traditional barriers for youth and STEM. In Kirsten’s role, she believes in evolving programming to meet the needs of both employees and students through her mantra of, ‘get important done’. She left us with a final note: to encourage all employees and companies to give students a glimpse of what’s possible for their lives through the lens of STEM outreach. 

Our panel about the ‘Business Value of STEM Outreach’ was composed of Annette Atkins (Caterpillar, Inc.), Ashton Smith (Citrix), Vic Weigman (EA Genomics) and moderated by Kristen Thompson (Fidelity Investments). Each spoke to how, through their role at their respective companies, they impact their company’s bottom line through conveying the ultimate value of STEM outreach within and outside their companies. Key take-away’s around business value of STEM outreach included 1) employee talent development- Employee development of skills through leadership and team building etc during implementation of outreach activity 2) Community Engagement- convey value of company to community by being a source of meaningful, positive impact on youth to surrounding neighborhood communities 3) future workforce: the development of a local pipeline of talent where a diversity of ideas comes with a diversity of students and backgrounds.

Breakout sessions during the STEM Industry Summit encouraged dialogue of two challenges that businesses can encounter when they develop STEM outreach programs: Incorporating tech tools in outreach and Mobilizing employees 

Stacy Costello, from RTI International, led the Engaging Tech Tools for STEM Outreach. Her session spoke into a particular teleconference tool, Blue Jeans and how that is leveraged at RTI as a vehicle for video conferencing career panel discussions from their Young Professionals Employee resource group. Stacy led discussions around what type of digital learner you are and specifically the benefits of video conferencing and e-mentoring for RTI. The session ended with a live video discussion with students and administration from Davidson County Schools.

Kelly Witter and Lauren Bamford, from the US EPA, spoke into the common hurdles and challenges of mobilizing employees for STEM engagement activities within companies and organizations. Key learnings included making volunteering easy for employees by bringing volunteering to them, making events short (perhaps half day) and planning events in advance to get on people’s calendars. This led to a rich discussion about how to implement these practices, develop engaging events and access event impact. Special thank you to Amanda Marvelle of Biogen for assisting with the development of this program session and content.

We hope that these discussions, resources and the connections made at the STEM Industry Summit begin to move the needle towards more company-led STEM engagement opportunities with students in the area, the state and globally! 

The 2nd Annual STEM Industry Summit would have not been a success without collaborations with Cisco Systems, Fidelity Investments, Caterpillar Inc., Citrix, US EPA, Biogen, EA Genomics and RTI International. We also thank Whole Foods for donating breakfast.  

For more information on STEM in the Park, please visit our website: www.rtp.org/stem-in-the-park/