Over the past six years, Stephanie Gardner has helped lead a sea change in achievement by historically underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) majors at the University of Washington. As director for the Pacific Northwest Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation at UW, the College of Education alumna and current doctoral student is opening pathways into STEM fields.
The LSAMP is a National Science Foundation-funded initiative within the UW’s Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity that focuses on increasing access and retention of minority students in STEM majors.
Gardner has been with LSAMP since its fall 2010 launch and built the program from scratch.
“There wasn’t a binder or anything I could go to [and] say 'this is what we’re supposed to do',” she said. “I’m most proud that in a short time period I was able to reach out to partners, ask questions, build relationships with faculty, staff and diversity programs to essentially put some structure on our grant.”
The program currently has more than 2,400 affiliated students and alumni, offers multiple workshops throughout the year, and has a center where students can study and access its resources. As a way to increase opportunities for students, Gardner partnered with UW Women in Science and Engineering to create a study abroad opportunity at Queensland University of Technology.
“There weren’t a lot of programs that called out diversity," Gardner said. "We wanted to make sure that one, we were providing an opportunity for STEM students, but two, we were really targeting populations that traditionally did not participate in study abroad programs.”
Since fall 2009, the number of underrepresented minority students earning STEM bachelor’s degrees at UW has increased by 57 percent.
Seeing more underrepresented students pursue STEM careers is something Gardner, who earned her master’s in educational leadership and policy studies and is currently a doctor of education candidate in higher education, takes pride in. After she completes her doctorate from UW College of Education, she plans to continue pursuing her passion: leading efforts to increase equity and access in education.
“Education for many of the students that I worked with opens doors and allows them to see possibilities that they have never thought [about],” Gardner said. “If I can share that passion and bring it to the work wherever I may be, that is the legacy I want to leave.”
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications