Education

New programs seek to increase girls in STEM studies

Written by Mindia Whittier

The organization exists because women are underrepresented in critical STEM careers.

Design Connect Create (DCC) announces it is expanding to make a greater impact on girls in school districts across Texas with increased programming, new leadership and a new brand.

Women are underrepresented in many critical STEM careers. Research shows that girls don’t receive the encouragement and support needed to pursue STEM studies and careers. This is especially true for girls from Black and Latino families who are less likely to see women who look like themselves working in STEM careers.

Dallas-based DCC has worked to address this issue by recently adding new STEM summer camp offerings and LeadHER, a mentoring program that pairs girls with women in STEM careers. Mentors include IF/THEN Ambassadors, a group of women from a variety of STEM careers that serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

The advancements are being implemented under the a new leadership team, including Executive Director Dr. Denise Strickland and Director of Operations Danielle Moore. The new executives succeed founder and former executive director Wanda Gass, an electrical engineer who helped develop Texas Instruments’ first commercially successful digital signal processor.

As Executive Director, Dr. Strickland brings 30 years of experience in the field of education as a teacher, trainer, coach and consultant to DCC. She previously served as Director of Community Programs Outreach for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas for nearly 10 years. Throughout her career, she has focused on education of underserved and disenfranchised youth and has been an advocate for women and girls. She holds an M.S.E. in elementary administration from Arkansas State University and an Ed.D. in education leadership and public school administration from Oral Roberts University.

As the Director of Operations, Danielle Moore has more than 20 years of experience in teaching and instructional design. Moore was a science teacher in Dallas ISD for 16 years, physics curriculum specialist in Fort Worth ISD and instructional design leader in DeSoto ISD prior to joining DCC. Danielle holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Dillard University and master’s degree in secondary education from Grand Canyon University. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in educational psychology and conducting research in equity and efficacy of marginalized populations at the University of North Texas.

Gass continues to fundraise and advocate for DCC.

“At Design Connect Create, we believe in the potential of all girls to empower and engineer their futures in STEM and beyond,” said Dr. Strickland. “By providing opportunities for girls to explore and investigate possibilities in STEM, especially for those who may not have the chance to do so otherwise, we are able to help them persevere and solve problems; connect ideas to real-world applications, people and possibilities; and become the STEM leaders of tomorrow.”

Last year, DCC launched coding camps for middle and high school girls. This summer, DCC is expanding again to offer biotech camps that will allow girls to investigate genetics using biotech lab techniques with real-world applications.

DCC is also unveiling a new logo that features the four disciplines within STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – as well as an array of vibrant colors that reflect diversity and bright potential among today’s girls. In addition, the organization has a new tagline: “Her path to a limitless future.”

Established in 2015 to create equitable opportunities for girls to explore STEM today so that they can be become leaders in STEM tomorrow, DCC began by offering physics camps to middle and high school girls. The camps provide hands-on experience and career exposure that build academic, career and life skills.

DCC partners with school districts throughout North Texas, including Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Crandall ISD, Duncanville ISD, Ferris ISD, Garland ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Lancaster ISD, Mesquite ISD and Richardson ISD, to offer camps at no cost to participants. Design Connect Create also offers camps in Austin through Austin ISD and in Houston through Houston ISD and Rice University. Since its founding, Design Connect Create has engaged more than 1,354 girls of all backgrounds with hands-on STEM experiences.

About the author

Mindia Whittier