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Monday, June 10, 2019 - 11:00am
Dobbs Ferry Campus

In May, the Rotunda at Dobbs Ferry was the scene of a K-12 STEM Teacher Conference, hosted by the Mercy College Center for STEM Education and sponsored by Regeneron, a leading science and technology company in Tarrytown, N.Y. The event featured dynamic speakers, poster presentations and an exhibitor hall of local STEM providers.

Keynote speaker Dijanna Figueroa, Ph.D., a marine biologist and educator from Pacific Palisades, Calif., captivated the audience by recounting the setbacks and triumphs she faced as a woman of color in a white, male-dominated field. Figueroa, who is one of the world’s first black deep-sea marine biologists, is the director of the Lucas Scholars Program, a California community-based social justice and equity program designed to engage young people in science, engineering, design and art.

“We are grateful for Regeneron’s support in presenting this important conference,” said Amanda Gunning, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Secondary Science Education and Chair of Mercy’s Department of Secondary Education. “Their grant made it possible for us to invite a speaker of Dr. Figueroa’s caliber, and she has inspired us with her efforts toward creating diverse, inclusive and equitable access to STEM fields.”

Figueroa’s work on science documentaries, nature programs and publications have amplified her commitment to making ocean science accessible to all people. “Not all people have equal access to the pathway, pipeline and resources that make a STEM career achievable,” she said. In her travels around the country speaking to student groups, Figueroa was often approached by girls and young women who told her they had never before seen a scientist of color. “That’s when I knew that I can’t stay in the lab. I need to more visible. When I started working on films, I began speaking to a greater audience. I realized that my gift to planet Earth was as a science storyteller.”

Lisa Purcell, Ph.D., Regeneron’s senior staff scientist in infectious disease and scientific director for secondary education programs, also spoke at the conference. Regeneron’s many grants and programs reflect the organization’s commitment to supporting science education and research, increasing the effectiveness of STEM teachers and generating career awareness among students historically underrepresented in the sciences.

Dr. Purcell is actively involved in Regeneron’s science education efforts including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, high school research mentorship program, Westchester Science and Engineering Fair and STEM Teaching Fellowship. Purcell praised teachers of STEM subjects, encouraging them to be role models to all students, even those who may be unaware of their own gifts. “In my life there was a teacher. He’s the reason I’m here. You’re that teacher to someone,” Purcell noted.

“One of the goals of this conference was to start the conversation about bringing together all STEM educators in Westchester,” said Mercy Professor of Secondary Science Education Meghan Marrero, Ph.D. “Currently there is no local organization that can bring together educators from a diversity of disciplines to address the issues of equity and social justice in STEM education. By sharing resources and facing challenges together, we can help to enrich a wider diversity of students—right here in Westchester, where it’s most needed. Mercy is prepared to be a facilitating resource in that goal.”