WSU hires STEM mentoring coordinator for STEMpact2020
Wichita now has a coordinator of STEM mentoring committed to engaging science, technology, engineering and math professionals in high-impact mentoring relationships with youth. Alex Petersen is the new coordinator of STEMpact2020, a collaborative effort led by Wichita State University’s College of Engineering, which includes a coalition of more than 30 public, private and non-profit partners in Wichita. Petersen began work Aug. 4.
The new position is a result of Wichita becoming one of seven winners in the national US2020 City Competition, a challenge to communities to launch collaborative partnerships around STEM mentoring. Recognized in a ceremony at the White House on May 27, Wichita and other winning cities will share $1 million in financial, consulting and staff support resources over the next year to launch their mentoring plans. Other winning cities include Allentown, Pa., Chicago, Research Triangle Park, N.C., Indianapolis, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Petersen, who grew up in Minnesota as the son of a farmer and a nurse, says he appreciates the role mentors can play in a child’s life.
“I can still remember as a young person having adults around that just by being around me helped me to see the possibilities of what I could become when I was an adult,” said Petersen, who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Bethel University in elementary education with an emphasis in science. “As the STEMpact2020 Coordinator, I am excited to be able to open young people’s eyes to the possibilities of who they can become – as well as help STEM professionals realize the profound and lasting effects they can have on a child.”
Connecting with STEM professionals
STEMpact2020 will work to connect local STEM professionals with youth at schools and through youth-serving non-profits. The focus will be on youth from groups underrepresented in STEM fields -- females, African Americans and Hispanics – but all local youth will be served by the program.
Petersen comes to his new role with significant experience in community service and collaborations, coming most recently from the Kansas City, Mo., Local Investment Commission, where he worked through the school system as a community organizer.
Petersen will be assisted by Ashley Beach, STEMpact2020 Knowledge Management coordinator, a position funded through US2020 by AmeriCorps VISTA. Beach is a 2014 WSU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and women’s studies.
She said she is particularly driven by the prospect of providing role models to women and minorities.
“On a personal level, I’ve wondered if I would have been an engineer if I’d had a female role model to let me know it was possible,” Beach said.