At the end of each session, we ask students to reflect on our work together—what they learned, what they liked, what they didn’t like. Their feedback is critical for helping us plan our future programs. It’s also just fascinating to have students share their takeaways about leadership and teamwork, to see what sticks with them over time. We’re always thrilled, of course, to hear students highlight some of the learnings we intentionally planned for them to remember. As interesting, however, are those unexpected insights students gleaned on their own.
Recently, we facilitated this final activity with students from Von Steuben Metro Science Center. Their insights are helpful to all of us—whether it’s advice for future STEM professionals like themselves or reminders for those of us 10, 20 or 30 years into our careers. Here’s a gist of what our students shared:
- Team members “can all be different from each other because each member adds a unique piece to the team.”
- Teamwork means “not speaking over each other.”
- It’s essential to learn to work with people you don’t like, or maybe you don’t even know—and it’s important to get over the discomfort in doing so. As one student said, “I never had to work with somebody I didn’t know before, and I got to do that here.”
- “Thank you for challenging us” because it’s okay if something is hard. Recognize you are uncomfortable. Be willing to say it. Continue to work to break through it.”
- “It’s your choice. You can choose to make something better, or you can sit there and complain.”
- “Be willing to listen even to comments you might not want to hear.”
Additionally, students across all our schools gleaned important lessons from our STEM Talk speakers who share their STEM career and life journeys. In particular, the stories shared by female STEM professionals, like Oracle attorney Victoria Ochollo, resonated with our female students, who noted how our speakers balance having families and how many overcame professional obstacles such as demotions or taking new positions that didn’t mean an increased salary. Students shared that these stories inspired them. “I can do this. I could be CEO also,” expressed one student. In the end, there are no better words of advice to all of us than the ones our students take away from STEM Talks: Follow your passion. Dream big. Stay focused. Forget the noise around you. Keep going.