TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Sonia Kovalevsky was a Russian mathematician– and a pioneer for women representation in STEM fields who lived in the 1800’s.
Over 100 years later, her legacy was still being celebrated at universities around the country on Saturday– including Rose-Hulman Institute of technology in Terre Haute.
The college hosted over a dozen high school and middle school students for “Sonia Math Day,” an event that looks to celebrate women’s involvement in STEM education.
Assistant mathematics professor Dr. Tracy Weyand helps organize the event at Rose-Hulman. She said she loved seeing youth from both Indiana and Illinois getting involved in these activities at a young age.
“It’s so important to have diversity in STEM, because people who study STEM are engineers in particular, but also doctors and that type of thing,” Weyand said. “They have such an impact on our society, we need every voice, every thought, every experience represented in the process of designing something and perhaps fixing something we currently have to make it even better, and more useful to more people.”
The day-long event, which was free of charge for participants, touched on a number of topics like game theory, probability and theories on infinity. Weyand, who has been a part of the event for several years, said her favorite part was watching the students get more comfortable as the day progressed.
“By lunch, they’ve made new friends and they are so excited,” she said. “They start asking me questions about Rose-Hulman, they are asking me questions about being in STEM,and they are going away wanting to have more of these types of experiences.”
Rose-Hulman student Helena Donaldson volunteered during the event. As a first-year student, she said it was heartwarming to see younger students share her passion– and it reminded her of her first time working on STEM projects.
“I really feel fulfilled working with these students because in the end, I feel every student at Rose-Hulman had an experience similar to what these students have right now, in that they were exposed to STEM some way, whether that was an activity at their school, outreach events like this at college, or a family member,” Donaldson said. “It’s really amazing to be able to give back to community members by providing that same experience to other students.”
And she said seeing the classroom filled with other women filled her with pride– especially in a male-dominated field.
“In high school and the early ages, we don’t necessarily recognize that diversity is lacking in certain fields, we don’t talk to students a ton about it. To be able to give students the opportunity to recognize maybe they could enter a field that they don’t see themselves represented in, it is important,” she said. “These girls are seeing other women professors in mathematics, speaking with them today and discussing later on in the STEM panel, maybe the challenges they faced, or what’s inspired them. So I think it’s really important in that way, to both celebrate but also encourage greater participation in STEM.”
More information on the event can be found on the Rose-Hulman website.