KENNESAW, Ga. | Feb 21, 2017

Kennesaw State establishes initiatives to attract women to STEM fields

Students from around Georgia participated in Scientista, an event designed to teach high schoolers about STEM.

With a national shortage of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, Kennesaw State University is aiming its initiatives specifically to introduce more young women to the many opportunities available in STEM.

“It is important for us, as an institution of higher learning, to provide a welcoming academic atmosphere for women who want to pursue STEM careers,” said Sam Olens, president of Kennesaw State. “When women see other women in their STEM classes, it can positively influence retention.”

More than 65 high school students turned out to the Marietta Campus on Feb. 20 for Scientista, the university’s daylong recruitment event for high schoolers and their parents to learn more about STEM career opportunities and related degree programs. Students from throughout the state participated in panel discussions, tours and interactive STEM activities.

“It’s interesting to see how science and math apply in careers,” said Julia Bush, a sophomore at Hiram High School in Paulding County. “I liked talking with those who are already pursuing STEM careers.”

According to Sarah Holliday, organizer for Scientista and interim faculty director of general education at KSU, girls perform just as well as boys in STEM, but girls are often told early on that science and math are difficult.

“Scientista – and many of the community outreach programs we do at KSU – is a way for us to help change that mindset,” Holliday said. “We can introduce girls to diverse STEM fields so they understand that they can be a computer security analyst, environmental engineer, biotechnology expert or math educator.”

Women make up 48 percent of the workforce, but only 24 percent in STEM fields, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey. At Kennesaw State, about 29 percent of all STEM students are women. They make up 14 percent of students in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and 16 percent in the College of Computing and Software Engineering, which mirrors the national shortage of women in these fields.


KSU STEM students shared with high schoolers what it takes to be successful in college and how to be prepared for future careers.

“Get involved when you get to campus,” said Alexis Martin, a junior mechanical engineering major. “The networking will help you make new friends in your major and help you to find internships.” 

Martin is a member of several student organizations, including the Society of Women in Engineering and Women in Technology, and also served as a resident advisor and campus ambassador.

Kennesaw State currently offers 60 bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, such as engineering, education, computing, mathematics and science, and the University has developed several initiatives, partnerships and community outreach programs to create a pipeline for young women to pursue STEM.

The Bagwell College of Education provides student teachers in 12 area school districts, often placing science and math teachers in middle and high schools. Education faculty share open lesson plans for Georgia educators to use in their STEM courses, and the University’s ATOMS Center provides professional development for K-12 math and science teachers.

Other outreach programs target minority girls in elementary and middle school. Members of several KSU student organizations tutor and teach coding to young girls at Girls Inc., and other student organizations offer classroom science demonstrations or help youngsters learn to invent.

Throughout the year, the University’s mathematics, information systems and physics departments offer one-day sessions to provide demonstrations and workshops on campus for female K-12 students interested in those disciplines. During the summer, the University offers SummerU, a day camp option where youngsters can learn LEGO robotics, astronomy and crime scene investigation.

In addition, nearly 10 STEM-related competitions and collaborative events, ranging from robotics to science to math to computer game development, are held on KSU’s campuses each year.

“If we can build the K-12 pipeline and get girls interested in STEM in the early grades, then they will be more likely to pursue STEM options in college and in their careers,” said Holliday, who also leads a K-12 Girls in STEM outreach collaborative at KSU. 

– Tiffany Capuano

Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit