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Author Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 79, Issue 7 - April 2020
PublisherITEEA, Reston, VA
ReleasedApril 15, 2020
Copyright2020
ISBN2158-0502
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Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 79, Issue 8 - May/June 2020

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WOMEN IN STEM EDUCATION: Virginia R. Jones, DTE

TETMJ20JonesResponses from Virginia R. Jones, Ph.D., DTE

Dean of Student Success and Enrollment Servces, Patrick Henry Community College

ITEEA President-Elect

 

What has been your secret to success as an educator and educational leader?

I believe educators have a thoughtful role in providing opportunities for learners by challenging them with unusual learning opportunities, new technologies to advance their learning, and ill-defined activities making them think collaboratively and grow in their confidence and in making career decisions. I was always a nontraditional learner and refused to be put into the normal “female” roles—I joined the Air Force at age 20 and learned about electronics, avionics, and weapons release bomb computers utilizing gyroscopes. This was back when women were more the exception than the norm in the military and especially in such a highly technical field. This experience was the pivotal point in my life as it taught me to work hard, keep learning, and instilled in me the leadership models to emulate.

As a leader, I use the same process I use with learners, as I like to challenge my co-workers to stretch their skills and styles to undertake ill-defined projects and to venture into new opportunities. I support the growth of those whom I lead; I allow them to work on projects without my assistance and only intercede when asked. Leading others in today’s educational arena—which for me is higher education—can be tough, as we’re faced daily with new initiatives and new concerns for and about our students. Leadership should be focused on helping guide those who work with you to build their skills toolbox to further their leadership goals.

 

What lessons from your parents have you carried through the years?

Perseverance is the most important thing I learned from parents. My father worked until he was 90, and my mom went back to college at age 50 and graduated with a master’s degree. They always challenged me to look at every situation from multiple perspectives, analyze the different choices, and then make a decision. If the decision was wrong, admit your error, correct the choices, and realign your trajectory from that point on.

 

What have you learned that you would want to pass on to younger generations?

Face every opportunity and roadblock as a learning opportunity. Consider what you learned, what you can change or adapt, and take away a positive from every job, educational course, or training you undertake.

 

What special challenges have you faced as a woman in a mostly male-dominated field?

Early in my career in education, although I was included at the “table” discussions, I believe I had no voice in the decision-making process. This was especially true in terms of not being recognized for my perspective or prior knowledge regarding decisions that affected the programs and leadership of the institution. This has changed somewhat in the past five years, but I believe all institutions need more diverse input from all stakeholders, especially regarding the multifaceted and ever-changing area of STEM education. 

 

Do you have any recommendations for creating a more inclusive community/classroom or words of advice for working with underrepresented populations?

We need to recruit more underrepresented minorities (URM), and this includes women into STEM Career fields. I believe we need to stop promoting earlier concepts that say we need to focus solely on females, but rather focus directly on all of those who stay away from STEM for whatever reason. This must start early in education, at the primary level, so that all learners get a firm grounding in mathematics, science, and the engineering process. We need to stop the “I’m not good at math,” as we use math daily just to get up and live our lives, which requires some math proficiency. Build on that and don’t take the flip answer stated above, but instead challenge all to develop those mindsets and skills needed for STEM success. It is not a male career field; it is a career field where all can earn a good living wage. As STEM educators, we owe it to all our learners to have equal opportunity to express their joy and love of science, technology, math, and engineering. We must help them develop that joy in STEM by developing their emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ equips students with conceptual understanding of STEM and its place in society.  Understanding that self-regulation, motivation, and curiosity for learning are brain-based proven tools to guide the “doing and making” of learners, equips them to be future problem solvers. Research shows the EQ is a more reliable predictor of STEM success than IQ alone. EQ is a distinct combination of emotional, personal, and interpersonal skills that influence our learners’ capacity to cope effectively with real-life integrative STEM problems. Developing EQ also appeals to underrepresented populations in STEM by promoting the social benefit aspects of STEM learning and future STEM careers.

 

What are you looking forward to next?

Focusing my efforts on reinvigorating our association through the Taskforce on Membership Diversity. Nontraditional thinking is required to appeal to those young career specialists in our field who are changing the face of who and what is integrative STEM education. As an organization, ITEEA wants to capture that vibe and promote how our organization can meld into the “go to” place for networking, ideas, and collaboration on STEM for the future. 

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