Ten North Texas Women Selected as IF/THEN Ambassadors to Promote STEM Education

IF/THEN, a national initiative of Dallas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies, focuses on furthering women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields by inspiring innovators and the next generation through its ambassador program.

STEM IF/THEN

Ten DFW-based women are among 125 female innovators nationwide selected as American Association for the Advancement of Science IF/THEN Ambassadors who plan to share their stories and be high-profile role models for girls.

Through Dallas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies, IF/THEN aims to support women in STEM fields by empowering current and future generations, according to a statement.

AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will participate in the IF/THEN Summit in Dallas next month where they plan to learn from each other and receive resources and coaching in science communication and effective STEM storytelling.


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The IF/THEN ambassadors are chosen based on being role models representing diverse STEM-related professions from entertainment, fashion, sports, business, and academia.

The North Texas women selected as ambassadors are:

  • Minerva Cordero, associate dean of science and professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Arlington
  • Jennifer Makins, director of STEM education at the Parish Episcopal School in Dallas
  • Dr. Julie Mirpuri, assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
  • Becca Peixotto, director at the Center for the Exploration of the Human Journey at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas
  • Myria Perez, a paleontologist and fossil preparator at the Perot Museum
  • Dr. Danielle Robertson, associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Dr. Nina Niu Sanford, assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Nicole Sereika, aviation maintenance technician at Southwest Airlines
  • Jennifer Stimpson, educator, innovator, and scientist at The Hockaday School’s middle school in Dallas
  • Kirsten Tulchin-Francis, division director of Movement Science at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital

 

The first-of-its-kind program seeks to address a critical need for more female STEM professionals and for better portrayals of women scientists in media and popular culture.

“We firmly believe that IF we support a woman in STEM, THEN she can change the world,” Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, said in a statement. “The goal of IF/THEN is to shift the way our country—and the world—think about women in STEM and this requires changing the narratives about women STEM professionals and improving their visibility.” 

To meet its goal, AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors seek to connect with students in person and via media platforms, including YouTube channels and network television shows. 

According to recent findings by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, just 37 percent of STEM professionals portrayed in television and film are women. A 2018 Microsoft survey also found that including a fictional or nonfictional STEM role model increases the proportion of girls interested in getting a job in the sector by 20 percent.

Lyda Hill Philanthropies is responding to those trends by collaborating with more than 30 organizations including Girl Scouts of the USA, National Geographic, Teach for America, U.S. Soccer, and the World Wildlife Fund, to form the IF/THEN Coalition. Members of this group are committed to promoting women in STEM by trying to reach girls where they consume content most. 

Mission Unstoppable, a new half-hour television series premiering Sept. 28 on CBS, will feature women in STEM, including AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors. The show will be hosted and executive produced by Miranda Cosgrove, best known for Nickelodeon’s iCarly, and Geena Davis. It will be produced by Litton Entertainment in association with Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

A digital library of photos and custom content called the IF/THEN Collection will also be created as a tool to increase the number of “accurate and powerful images” of women and girls in STEM, according to a statement. The collection can be accessed by media, educators, and nonprofit organizations as they develop and share inspiring content and curriculum.

The ambassadors were selected through a rigorous process in which they were evaluated for overall excellence in the following:

  • Contributions to their STEM-related field, commensurate with their career stage
  • Demonstrated experience and abilities in STEM communication and public engagement via media, classroom, and public programs
  • Commitment to inspiring middle-school girls to be the next generation of STEM pioneers.

 

The IF/THEN Girls Advisory Council, composed of more than 150 girls ages 10-18 from around the country, also participated in the Ambassador selection process. The full list of women selected as AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors is available here.

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