Fairmont State University has received a grant for $7,461.50 from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s (HEPC) Diversity for Equity grant program to support the development of a new initiative to encourage females to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

By piloting outreach activities in six local middle and high schools, this project is specifically designed to increase awareness, interest, and participation of female students in computing and information systems management. This initiative is led by Fairmont State University School of Business faculty, Dr. Rebecca Giorcelli, professor of Information Systems Management and Chair of Marketing and Management Studies, and Dr. Gina Fantasia, professor of Business and Director of School of Business Accreditation. As a pilot program, the data gathered and research conducted will help improve the efficacy of future programming and also help identify factors that could increase the success of female students in STEM programs.

“We are fortunate to have an outstanding Fairmont State team who will help students realize the potential they have to go into a STEM program,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, interim chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. “This is a tremendous opportunity for students who are thinking of entering the STEM field.”

This grant will primarily fund the development of materials and videos to accompany the outreach activities. Once developed, these tools and resources will be used in on-going activities and outreach programs scaled to reach a broader audience of female middle and high school students across the state of West Virginia.

Another goal of this initiative is to create a community of female students with an interest in STEM-related careers and then to connect these students with supportive female mentors in industry who can nurture that interest and help the students complete their education and enter a career in the high-tech arena.

“In West Virginia, women are significantly underrepresented in STEM-related career fields. In fact, the literature shows that West Virginia’s percentage of women employed in STEM fields is less than half that of men. We know there’s a disconnect between female students who express interest in these fields at an early age and the number of females actually pursuing these types of career fields,” Dr. Giorcelli explained. “Our goal is to establish a support system that will help these young women overcome obstacles, gain confidence in their abilities, and ultimately pursue and be successful in their STEM-related career of choice.”

“STEM fields are the fastest growing sectors of the economy. We can’t grow West Virginia’s economy without producing the employees who are sufficiently educated and trained to meet the needs of STEM employers,” stated Dr. Fantasia. “Our initiative is aimed at increasing the number and diversity of students who are prepared to enter those fields. Diversity is not just about inclusion, it’s about growth; it’s about ensuring a bright future for our students and our state.”

The aim of the Diversity for Equity Grant initiative from WVHEPC is to make higher education accessible to citizens representing broad demographics and helping these students to succeed.

For information on how you or your school can participate in this effort, please contact Dr. Giorcelli at (304) 367-4183 or Rebecca.Giorcelli@fairmontstate.edu, or Dr. Fantasia at (304) 367-4732 or Gina.Fantasia@fairmontstate.edu.