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Faculty Member Says Secret to Success in STEM Field is ‘Grit and Mindset’

August 29, 3017 -- Barbara Gilbert, a CNM physics and engineering faculty member, spent part of her summer sharing her experiences as a woman in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, including being a motivational speaker to councilors at a girls’ camp, Tech Trek, held at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. She also was the Corona High School commencement speaker.
Faculty Member Says Secret to Success in STEM Field is ‘Grit and Mindset’

Barbara Gilbert

“Recent research suggests that many females shy away from STEM careers, particularly engineering fields, when they take part in internships and group projects as they matriculate through their engineering programs.” Gilbert said. “I want to empower under-represented people by eliciting group discussion that focuses on potential struggles they may experience and sharing techniques that they can employ to overcome and/or mitigate these struggles.”

In her talk at New Mexico Tech, Gilbert provided examples of obstacles she faced early on in her career, how she engaged them and in retrospect what she would change. Then she encouraged the councilors to share their own stories with one another through a large group discussion.

“Though the young female campers, whom these councilors worked with, haven’t yet experienced STEM careers, they can begin to identify and recognize the vast number of society’s gender-based messages that they are exposed to, regarding what females should look like and how they should act.” Gilbert said. “Becoming sensitized to these ‘false’ messages will help them identify future ‘false’ messages they may receive in their STEM academia and careers.”  

During the 2016-2017 academic year, Gilbert became acquainted with a science teacher at Corona High School through a project-based learning initiative spearheaded by New Mexico State University. The Corona science teacher invited her to deliver the school’s commencement speech to the nine-member graduating class.

In her graduation speech, Gilbert told the class that the secret to success in STEM and other fields is “grit and mindset.”

“Expect failure and then pick yourself up,” she said. “It takes passion, perseverance and an optimistic outlook. Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you are correct.  Keep inquiring and finding new things, seize opportunities as they come along. And, if you pursue a love of career in lieu of a love of money, you will never have to ‘work.’”

Gilbert’s summer activity comes on the heels of a year-long CNM School of Math, Science & Engineering initiative empowering females and minorities in STEM careers. During the 2017-2018 academic year, MSE will be holding bi-monthly brown bag lunch workshops. Professionals from STEM careers will be invited to share personal experiences in informal group discussions.

“Though these workshops are geared to empower females and minorities in STEM careers, the greatest possibility for success lies in the participation of males and females, both minority and non-minority,” Gilbert said. “We all have something to learn and something to share.”

The STEM brown-bag lunches will be held every other Friday from noon-1p.m. in JS Building, Room 308. The first lunch speaker will be Dr. Oscar Martinez from the Air Force Research Lab on Friday Sept. 8.  Other brown-bag lunches will be Sept. 22, Oct. 6, Oct. 20, Nov. 3 and Nov. 17.

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