The Fellowships and Grants staff at AAUW loves every chance we get to meet and celebrate all of the fantastic AAUW alumnae. When a former fellow receives an award or is recognized for her work, well, we just love to brag about it! So here goes … 1995–96 American Fellow Carol Tang was recently named one of California’s top Leading Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) by the California STEM Learning Network!
We first profiled Tang back in 2009 for the Following the Fellows series. Back then, she was a senior science educator at the California Academy of Sciences. Today she is the director of the Coalition for Science after School. Though paleontology research and education are both interests of Tang’s, she readily admits that one passion won over the other: She is deeply committed to after-school science education and the many ways it can change a child’s life.
The benefits of after-school science programs are twofold. First, these programs offer young people hands-on scientific experience with a mentor that can spark a love for science and form the basis of a future career. Secondly, science education prepares young people to be creative thinkers and future problem-solvers. Today’s issues, like climate change and public health, are not going away anytime soon. Tang says that since future generations will have to tackle these and other problems, it is important to give young people the skills to solve scientific quandaries. “It would be a crime not to prepare them,” she says.
When Tang discovered that she was being honored as one of California’s leading women in STEM for her work in scientific education outside the classroom, she was both surprised and excited about what this recognition meant for the field of after-school education. Tang says the award helps to erode the stereotype that after-school programs are not rigorous. “In after-school programs it is not about how much the youth are ‘learning,’ it is about how much they are engaging. This can’t be measured with hours or test scores,” says Tang. Programs like the Coalition for Science after School connect youth with scientist mentors who demonstrate that careers in science are not only real; they are also within reach. Tang says this interest in and emotional connection to science is especially powerful for both girls and boys in underserved areas. Identification with science can show youth that STEM education is empowering and an achievable opportunity.
Tang applauds AAUW’s role in empowering women and girls in STEM. Programs like the Selected Professions Fellowship, the Tech Trek summer camps, and research are leveling the playing field for women in math and science. And it can all start with simple steps: When Tang was working on exhibits with the California Academy of Sciences, she learned how much a two-hour visit to a museum really matters. If “those 30 words on the aquarium fish label can make a difference,” she says, then the connections made in after-school education can change lives.
Tang’s 1995–96 American Fellowship was sponsored by the Evelyn Fox Keller American Fellowship and the Nora Harris Perry American Fellowship.
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.