Greyhound Grad Helps Students Pursue STEM Careers

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PORTALES, NM (09/12/2018) The Hispanic-Serving Institution - Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (HSI-STEM) grant has been awarded to Eastern New Mexico University by the U.S. Department of Education for two consecutive five-year terms. Greyhound Grad Jessica Curtis serves as the STEM outreach coordinator for the grant.

Dr. Kenwyn Cradock, director for the HSI-STEM grant at ENMU, crafted a student success plan to increase enrollment, retention and graduation in baccalaureate STEM programs, particularly for Hispanic, underrepresented and low-income students. Jessica and three other staff members facilitate grant initiatives, including hiring undergraduate researchers and STEM Club mentors and offering internships, supplemental instruction, degree planning and resume/CV building.

As the STEM outreach coordinator, Jessica engages and empowers precollege, military and community college students to pursue STEM education and careers. She posts flyers, shares resources and does outreach to schools, libraries and Cannon Air Force Base.

Jessica also oversees the STEM Club, which was created to help 6-12th graders with projects for the Regional Science and Engineering Research Challenge through faculty, staff and undergraduate mentors. The club also offers activities, demonstrations and help with other STEM-related projects/competitions.

Her favorite part of her job is having a "team of wonderful people who truly believe in students and STEM education. We are consistently brainstorming new ways to help students flourish.

"Another fun part of this job is working with parents and teachers to introduce kids to fun STEM activities, camps, scholarships, competitions, etc. In fact, my son is taking biology with the Portales High School science chair, Ms. Mitchell, and I am coordinating science demonstrations for her classes, so it's a great chance to expose students to STEM."

Jessica decided to take on the position because it seemed like the perfect fit. "Upon reading the job description, it seemed tailored to me. As a veteran and Eastern STEM student, I received the education and experience to prepare for this position," said the Greyhound Grad, who received a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries in 2016 and a master's degree in biology in 2017.

She also felt prepared for the job based on the experiences she had as the public representative for ENMU's Fish and Wildlife Club, presenting research at ENMU's Student Research and Creativity Conference (SRCC) four times and transitioning from an Air Force linguist to a wildlife biology researcher.

"I felt I possessed a unique skillset to reach out to freshmen, transfers and veterans transitioning into STEM education. STEM fields are highly paid and demanded, yet may seem daunting to pursue," she said. "However, with the right resources, like a STEM grant, it is a worthy and meaningful challenge to take on."

Her goal for the position is to demonstrate progress in student early engagement, enrollment and retention. She hopes to achieve this by attracting students to the grant's freshmen/transfer student orientations and the STEM Club. She also plans to advertise the benefits of pursuing STEM careers: "You can be curious, creative and solve community and global problems," she explained.

The Greyhound Grad believes that helping students feel a sense of belonging in STEM is "key to persistence and success." She assists them with finding financial/academic assistance and research opportunities and hopes to create a support system through the STEM grant.

Her favorite thing about Eastern is the "small, connected campus. I am constantly running around to other offices making schemes to reach and support STEM undergraduates. I have found faculty and staff to be friendly, inventive and excited to help!"

Students and community members interested in joining the STEM Club can attend the meetings on Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. in Science Building Room 108. Email for more information.

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