Southern Polytechnic State University’s recruitment office continued its women’s initiative by hosting its second annual SOPOWO Day on Monday, February 10, 2014. The day was a success (especially given concerns over the snow and ice storm heading towards Marietta and Atlanta beginning on Monday evening or Tuesday morning).  Girls and parents interested in majors emphasizing science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and design packed the SPSU ballroom at 9 a.m.   Under the direction of Gary Bush, the Director of Admission and Recruitment, Admission Counselor Chelsea Feraco, Recruitment Specialist Rebecca Tuck, and Hispanic Enrollment Counselor Isabel Millian had begun to prepare for this day shortly after the first Women’s Day by pulling together a committee of faculty, staff, and students in order to create a great event.

The day began with an early 7:30 a.m. check-in for students and parents wishing to sample an SPSU class.  The Keynote address by Ann Cramer of Cox Curry & Associates followed at 9 a.m.

The SPSU Rock was decorated for the occasion.
The SPSU Rock was decorated for the occasion.

The Keynote Speaker, Ms. Ann Cramer

I had the chance to chat with Ms. Cramer before her keynote address.  I found out that she had graduated with a mathematics degree from Salem College, a women’s college in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Ms. Cramer told me that she attended college at a time in which most women who majored in mathematics became teachers of mathematics.  Ms. Cramer, however, was quite sure she did not have the patience to become a teacher.  Therefore when she got the chance for an interview with IBM, she was more than happy to take it and was even happier to take the systems engineering job when it was offered to her, especially since it was in Jacksonville, Florida and not in the dank, dark city of Poughkeepsie, New York where she was interviewed for the job.

Ms. Cramer realized that she loved not only the problem solving that went with the job, but also the ability to

Ann Cramer, the keynote speaker, addresses the audience.
Ann Cramer, the keynote speaker, addresses the audience.

work with a community of people for social goals.  Early on at IBM she became an IBM volunteer with United Way and helped to raise money for those in need. In 1968 she moved to the Atlanta area to continue her work with IBM and eventually became the Director for IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs for the Americas. She was able to oversee IBM’s approach to corporate citizenship, strategic philanthropy and overall social responsibility in this position. After retiring from IBM she became involved with Coxe Curry & Associates as a senior consultant who aids non-profit clients in order to help them with board development, volunteer engagement, fundraising, and so on.

Ms. Cramer spoke to the girls about what it will take for them to succeed at the college level in the STEM fields.  She wanted to help them to understand how to set their goals and to succeed at them.

The Student and Parent Interviews

I knew I wanted to get the chance to talk with some of the girls and their parents who were attending SOPOWO day.  While I did not go to college originally to become a teacher, I happily decided along the way that I did want to teach.  I realized that while I had not had the “dream” to be a teacher, that it ended up being my dream job.  I am always curious about what people dream of doing for a job and how those dreams begin.  I hoped to learn what the girls attending SOPOWO day dreamed of doing and what their parents hopes and dreams for their daughters were.

Jessica Peek and her Mother Kathy

I first talked with Jessica Peek and her mother Kathy.    Jessica told me that she is a freshman at Young Americans Christian school in Conyers, Georgia.  I commented on how early she was beginning to look at colleges, and she responded by telling me that she wants to get out to colleges early so she can get an ideal of what her choices are.  Jessica told me that she is interested in Veterinarian Science and Marine Biology.  She told me that she has always loved animals and that she helped find homes for two dogs (one a pit bull and the other a Dachshund) that she found on the streets, and that she has two dogs herself.  Jessica has also had the opportunity to work at the Georgia Aquarium, where she has helped with tours and has worked with the dolphins.

Jessica Peek and her mother Kathy attended SOPOWO Day.
Jessica Peek and her mother Kathy attended SOPOWO Day.

Jessica told me that this is actually the second time she have visited SPSU.  The first was when her brother came to visit the campus and she came with him—she thought the programs here were interesting and so was happy to return.  I asked her if her brother had ended up coming to SPSU, and she told me that he ended up at the University of Alabama at Birmingham instead.  When I expressed my condolences over the past football season for Alabama, Jessica told me that luckily her brother is more of a basketball fan.

I asked Kathy, Jessica’s mother, what she wanted for her daughter.  Kathy said that she doesn’t want a “job” for her daughter but that she rather wants Jessica to do something that she loves to do.  She told me that all of Jessica’s life has been focused on animals and taking care of people.  She’s not surprised that Jessica wants to be a vet or a doctor.

Allyson Still and her Father Kenneth

After I talked with Jessica and Kathy, I talked with Allyson Still and her father Kenneth.  Allyson is a junior at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Georgia, and she is very interested in architecture.  Allyson likes drawing, mathematics, and physics and feels Architecture is the perfect major for her interests.  I asked her if she had liked building things with Legos as a child, and she told me “yes.”  When I asked her if there was a type of building she preferred, she told me that it didn’t really matter, but that she liked to check out skyscrapers.  She then said that she was up for working hard in order to graduate with an architecture degree.

My next question was if Allyson was looking into any other schools.  I liked her response since she told me

Allyson Still and her father Kenneth smile for the camera.
Allyson Still and her father Kenneth smile for the camera.

that there weren’t really any other schools for her degree. I still liked her answer when she told me that she meant any other in-state schools.  It’s good to know that SPSU is her school of choice for Architecture since Georgia Tech also has an Architecture degree program.

I then asked Allyson’s father what he wanted for his daughter.  Kenneth told me that money can be made in any area so what he really wants for Allyson is for her to study in a major field she enjoys.

Binxin (Chloe) Zhao

Binxin (Chloe) Zhao was the last student I had the chance to interview.  She told me that she has only been in the United States for about three years and that she is originally from China.   While Chloe expressed some concern about her English skills, I told her that she actually had a good command of English and that SPSU has a writing center where she could get help if she needed it.

Chloe is a senior at Decatur High School in Decatur, Georgia, and she is interested in mechanical

Chloe gave information about her college hopes.
Chloe gave information about her college hopes.

engineering. Her interest stems from her experience on the school’s robotic team.  She really enjoyed being on the team and she told me that she is very good at mathematics and the sciences.  She wants to continue her education beyond an undergraduate degree since she is interested in researching robotics for her job.

I asked Chloe what other schools she has applied to and she named the following Georgia schools:  Georgia Southern, the University of Georgia, Georgia College and State University.  She told me that she has applied to some of the schools out of state, but that she would probably stay in state since the out-of-state schools are so expensive.

Wrap-up on the Interviews

While I would have liked more time to interview more students and their parents, I felt the three girls gave me a good opportunity to talk with students of varying interests and at varying places in their journey through high school. Talking with the girls made me think back to the days when I was trying to determine what I would study and at which school I would study.  While I remember feeling certain I would go to college (my dad was a college professor when I was growing up), I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to study and which school I wanted to attend.  I didn’t visit a school until the second semester of my senior year and I don’t think I was even really aware that choices existed in architecture and mechanical engineering.  I hope all three girls find that their choices fit their dreams of a perfect career.

Women of SPSU Speak to the Girls

What followed after the keynote speaker was a session in which current female faculty, students, and staff spoke about their SPSU experiences with the girls.  Among the speakers were faculty members Dr. Laura Beth Daws (Communications), Dr. Lori Lowder (Mechanical Engineering), Ms. Sonia Toson (Business Law) and Dr. Diedre Hodges (Electrical Engineering), Director of Development at SPSU’s Advancement Office Kit Trensch, and students Victoria Knox, Jalynn Young, and Anna Lilley.  The girls and their parents got the chance to learn about what goes on in various fields of studies, research interests of faculty, student clubs, student learning, and SPSU alumni services.

Student Victoria Knox and Chelsea Feraco talk about student concerns.
Student Victoria Knox and Chelsea Feraco talk about student concerns.
Faculty member Laura Beth Daws and Chelsea Feraco talk about SPSU.
Faculty member Laura Beth Daws and Chelsea Feraco talk about SPSU.

Conclusion

SOPOWO day continued with tours of the campus; lunch; an organization fair; a talk on women’s roles in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and design fields; admissions; financial aid; housing; career services and campus involvement among other things.  In other words, the day was a full day of learning about college opportunities at SPSU as well as learning more about women and their progress in fields once thought of as “male” fields of study.  As we look forward to celebrating Women’s History Month in March, it’s good to know that women have not only had a long history in these fields of study, but that they have also had a long history as inventors.  The following items were invented by women after all:  The bullet proof vest (Stephanie Kwolek), windshield wipers (Mary Anderson), the dishwasher (Joesphine Cochrane), and the circular saw (Tabitha Babbitt).

Below are several pictures I took while attending SOPOWO Day.  Enjoy!

Faculty member Lori Lowder talks about Mechanical Engineering
Faculty member Lori Lowder talks about Mechanical Engineering.
The audience for SOPOWO Day filled the Ballroom at SPSU.
The audience for SOPOWO Day filled the Ballroom at SPSU.
Audience members listen to the keynote speaker.
Audience members listen to the keynote speaker.
Faculty member Sonia Toson and Chelsea Feraco discuss SPSU.
Faculty member Sonia Toson and Chelsea Feraco discuss SPSU.
Student  Jalynn Young speaks about campus activities and housing.
Student Jalynn Young speaks about campus activities and housing.
Student Victoria Knox and Chelsea Feraco talk about student concerns.
Student Victoria Knox and Chelsea Feraco talk about student concerns.
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