Champions of Change: African American History Month STEM Leaders

Rumana Ahmed: All right Good morning and welcome to the White House Thank you all so much for joining I know everyone had to come in through the snow and stand outside for hopefully not too long My name is Rumana Ahmed and I’m here on behalf of the Office of Public Engagement And again, I just want to thank you all so much for being here today and thanks to those who are joining us live, as we celebrate African-American History Month and remember the leaders before us whose legacies we’ve been able to build upon to be where we are today But we’re also here, more importantly, to celebrate the passionate and inspirational individuals, like our Champions of Change, who are here today who are creating and strengthening the foundations for what future generations will look back to as legacies of these champions, especially in creating access and diversity in fields of science, technology, education, and mathematics So to our champions — if I can ask you to stand really quickly — thank you so much and congratulations for being a part of history (applause) We’ve heard the President say it time and time again, but the best ideas don’t always come from Washington, but from outside of Washington And these champions, as well as other local leaders, are an example of just that Our office, the Office of Public Engagement, serves as a front door to the White House So we can spotlight great work, but also bring together those who share common goals and a common passion to share their ideas and create solutions to challenges across communities As we all know, solving any problem requires leadership, vision, and collaboration It requires lifting up and learning from individuals like our champions who are here today, who are building a more innovative, educated, and stronger America through access and opportunity for all And yes, that does sound very familiar It’s something that our President mentioned multiple times during his State of the Union, and he made it the heart of his State of the Union speech and a primary vision as we move forward in our policies and as a nation together So I’d really like to encourage everyone who’s here in the room today, but everyone who’s watching, to help lift up the stories of these champions by using hashtag #whchamps and hashtag #STEM, and you can also find their bios — biographies on and we encourage you to post those on your websites, but also to share it with your friends and colleagues Also, just a reminder that this is being livestreamed, so please do encourage your friends and families and colleagues that they can join to listen to our champions speak later today And now I’d like to introduce to you someone who shares the same passion and enthusiasm for your work as the President — assistant to the President, Cecilia Munoz (applause) Cecilia Munoz: Thank you, Rumana Good morning everybody Audience: Good morning Cecilia Munoz: So I’m really excited to be here and honored to be one of the people welcoming you to the White House and congratulating our Champions of Change The thing about our Champs of Change events is — that we all love is how inspiring they are And the thing which makes it intimidating to be one of the speakers is because there’s no way I can be as eloquent about the work that you all do as you are And you all, I know, are going to be talking about it later today, so I don’t want to get in the way of that eloquence, but I do want to say that what you’re doing is tremendously, tremendously important and we are really, really proud to be connected to it and to be able to honor it today And we’re very, very proud to have you here today We’re — part of the reason that we are lifting this work up is because of how incredibly important STEM education is to the future of our country And you will hear this, you know, throughout the course of your day It’s something that the President believes in very, very deeply, that if we are going to achieve all the goals that he has set out for us in terms of growing the economy, making sure that we’re creating jobs, making sure that those are good-paying jobs, making sure that everybody has access to those kinds of jobs, we have to be making sure STEM education is a reality in every community and that we are inspiring young people to join these fields because we need them Our economic future depends on it And this is one of the reasons that in 2012 the President launched the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans to make sure that we’re engaged in very deliberate work in every community in every constituency around the country to make sure opportunity is real And that means especially investing in education We all understand that that’s a key if — again, if we’re going to move forward as a country And the initiative has developed all kinds of interesting opportunities to — including they’re doing a series of summits, they’re doing all kinds of interesting work to build

awareness on STEM fields, they’re sponsoring things like hackathons, the sort of wonky term for what they’re doing is identifying evidence-based practices, which means investing in, you know, in what works So everything from the wonky to the sort of more interesting in finding ways to use hip hop and content in order to really make sure people — young people understand how relevant it is These are all really innovative strategies and these are all things that you all are engaged in, which is why we’re so excited to have you here today As I’ve said before, we feel very deeply across the Administration that, you know, this is not altruistic work that we do because we want to be good people, although we do try to be good people This is work that is absolutely vital for our economic growth, our economic security, and if we’re really going to make opportunity a reality in every corner of this country So, I thank you I thank our Champs of Change for what you do and for all of the inspiration that you provide to the rest of us To the students, to the educators, and others, who are here, this is your work, as well And we thank you not just for being here today, but for being engaged in this work in the course of your lives and your careers And it’s a great privilege to be able to thank our leader in this effort and our next speaker — did he just disappear? Where are you? Where’d you go? Oh, there you are (laughter) I saw you over in the corner David Johns, who is really the extraordinary leader of the Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans He is deeply, deeply engaged in the work of creating opportunity, of using innovation We are very, very excited about his leadership and of not only the accomplishments so far of the Initiative, but for the work that lies ahead So it’s a great privilege for me to thank David Johns and to introduce him to all of you (applause) David Johns: Thank you That was kind I’m excited to be here and wish that everybody who’s watching online could be in this room to see how beautiful and fancy you all are, but to also feel the energy in this room I’ve said to many of you that this was a really important day for us We do a lot of events I just got off of a plane from Huntsville, Alabama But to think about the opportunity to highlight African-American educators and activists and artists who are committed to helping to expand opportunities in STEM industries for our kids and communities and our schools, is just a wonderful thing It’s consistent with our executive order It’s aligned with sort of my great privilege of being the first director of this Initiative where we get to be unapologetic about helping to expose African-American kids like Sidney, whose beautiful self is sitting in the back right there, and Ms. Flaia Kate that everybody can’t see, but she’s gorgeous and brilliant But that’s why we’re here And so, I wish that we could celebrate each of you with regard to fine opportunities to highlight your work I know that they gave you a couple of hashtags My friend Mark is in here somewhere from Twitter I want to say thank you for your support, as well So tomorrow we invite you to meet us and Mark on Twitter at noon where we will continue this conversation All of our champs are invited They’ll be talking about their work, but we invite you to get into that conversation, as well So tomorrow at noon using the hashtag #afamedchat, and we do that frequently, so just follow us I’m going to briefly introduce to you our champions I’m going to read a little bit about their bio, talk to you about why I think that they’re amazing And then we’re going to have two panel discussions that will allow us to open up this discussion, if that works for everybody I see some nods Everybody’s in agreeance Okay, perfect So first, I’m going to ask them to stand as I read this and embarrass them a little bit, is Kevin Clark And Kevin is a director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University And Kevin has a really cool job of helping young people develop video games and understand how it is that they can leverage their passions and their privilege to connect to technology in innovative and creative ways So there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on at the Center for Digital Media Innovation at George Mason University, and Kevin will talk about that And recently his activities has focused on using video game design to increase STEM access and careers, and so give Kevin a round of applause (applause) Kevin and his wife also have two young scholars who I thought were getting out of school, but they said, “No, we’re going right after this program.” (laughter) Teach them by example Next is Brother Chris Emdin Chris is who I call the hip hop doc We share an affiliation with Columbia University, but he does wonderful things You can follow him on Twitter, as well, using hashtag #hiphoped, but he’s created something called the Science Genius Battles, right And the wonderful thing about it is that he meets young people where they are and helps them to leverage and explore the ways that they can use hip hop to understand connections between things like patriarchy, and male privileges, chauvinism, or to understand scientific concepts using raps, right? So it’s beyond sort of the surface level, use hip hop to teach them how to memorize something but really thinking about using hip hop in art and STEM as a way to help

people think about the world in broader ways Give Chris a round of applause Andrea Hence is the principal of Kidgineer Where is she? Andrea is a lawyer by training who gives a lot of helpful advice to young people who are needing to protect their patents But her program, Kidgineer, focuses on encouraging and highlighting STEM enrichment for young kids, students ages five through 10 And so the work of Andrea and Reagan is really important in this context because often when we talk about STEM, we waited until students are maybe in high school, but often when they’re in college, right? And what we know is that that’s often too late, right? Learning starts at birth and the preparation for learning starts well before birth, and so it’s important for us to start having conversations about STEM with young people when they’re Sidney’s age So give Andrea a round of applause (applause) Next is Eunique Jones Gibson, who is an artist, cultural architect, and social media specialist, wife, and mother I love that I think it’s beautiful She’s committed to educating and connecting a new generation of heroes who have paved the way And so, in 2013, she launched the Because of Them We Can campaign If you have not seen it, you need to see it It will change your life The work that she does is especially important as we think about — awesome, if you bring it up here I’ll hold it while I’m doing this — the work she does is really awesome when we think about the fact that this summer there are a couple of significant anniversaries, right? So there’s a freedom summer, right? There is the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of ’64 There’s the anniversary of the Million Man March And so sometimes when we think about these things, we ignore the fact that students and schools are inherently exposed to many of our cultural leaders And so, what she has done is take young people and cast them in representative images — I don’t know if that would be the word that she would choose — but representative images of some of our watershed heroes, right? And so, it’s a way of connecting young people to their ancestors to remind them that they stand on really capable or strong shoulders But it’s also a way for us to recognize the beauty and the humanity of our young people, right? So in a space in which we will acknowledge that today is the anniversary of our brother Trayvon Martin’s death and murder It’s really important for us to make these critical connections Please give her a round of applause (applause) Reagan Flowers — Dr. Flowers is an educator and a trainer She founded C-STEM teacher and student support services And so, as I said before, the awesome thing about Dr. Flowers, this program which she founded in 2002, is that it’s unapologetically focused on ensuring that our young people have access to STEM program and exposure, right? She has never believed that it’s sometimes that we should wait, that young people are not capable of doing phenomenal things with and travels the country and the world, actually helping to make sure that people understand how to do this work Please give her a round of applause (applause) Christina Lewis Halpern is a founder of All Star Code, a non-profit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap, opportunity gap, for young men of color in the tech sector She is a board member of Reginald Lewis and I say that because of Eunique’s photograph of Reginald Lewis and there’s also a member of his family in this room, so just talk about the power of connections and how all of our work is related And what they do is prepare young people to take over in the science industry and they are, again, unapologetically focused on increasing exposure to African-American students in particular Please give her a round of applause (applause) Felecia Hatcher is on a mission to create 10, 000 African-American start-ups as the co-founder of Code Fever I love it because the name says exactly what it is They’re trying to spread that fever And what they do is train African-American youth in the areas of technology and entrepreneurship, right? This is something that our commission chair, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, talks a lot about We shouldn’t be talking about STEM as a way to simply get kids engaged, but as a way for them to think about how to move through the world and starting businesses right where they are Decker, who runs Echo and Green fellowship, a couple of our honorees are connected to them, are doing exactly that, taking advantage of social entrepreneurship and innovation to create things where they are Give her a round of applause (applause) Danielle Lee is a biologist who studies animal behavior And I’ll never forget Danielle One of the earliest impressions she made on me was talking about how she uses hair care for black women to teach science, right? (applause) Right? And I appreciate it And she’s always — hashtag teaching the babies on Twitter But what she does is help people understand that you take for granted the ways in which science and STEM impact you in your daily life And so it was this wonderful thing, we were sort of talking about this, and in a space where some people are like, “I don’t understand that STEM stuff.” Right, like it’s sort of amorphous She breaks it down, right? If we can help a young woman or man for that matter, understand that what’s going on with his or her hair involves chemicals and interactions and things like that, we can help them understand the world around them Give her a round of applause (applause) Calima Pryfors is a co-founder of Queeno Labs

in Oakland, California And they’re an education innovation start-up that works with local partners to close the achievement gap And so they do a lot of what people are talking about, right, like taking individuals who are in industry, connecting them with researchers and academia, so we’re doing this and putting them in front of young people to say, “Make this happen.” And they do it in Oakland, California and across the world They recently had an event where they brought how many young people to Oakland? Male Speaker: A hundred fifty David Johns: A hundred fifty young people to Oakland who were there just to code, right? And so in a space in which we sometimes cringe and it’s been hard for me to read about young boys who say, “I won’t go for the hoodie, I’ll go for the hat.” They invited young boys to Oakland to say, “Wear your hoodie and let everybody know you’re coming here to tech code.” Give him a round of applause (applause) Last but certainly not least is Kimberly Scott, executive director of CompuGirls and she’s joined us all the way from Tempe, Arizona She did not bring the weather with her, but we will let her go (laughter) She is associate professor of Women and Gender Studies at the Department of Arizona State University and the executive director of CompuGirls And they, again, are focused on increasing exposure to technology, in particular for adolescent girls in underserved school districts So they’re doing phenomenal things in Arizona and around the world Give her a hand of applause (applause) So I, again, have the honor of being the first ever executive director of this wonderful initiative, but my job is made easy by a phenomenal staff And this moment, I just want to acknowledge a few of them If Chris, Khalilah, Bernadette Khalilah’s responsible for most — for working with our colleagues at the White House to make this happen If you guys could please stand (applause) Ramon I think our interns — Joselle, stand up, Joselle Tasia, Nick, our interns, and Ramon, former interns, I want to say thank you Bernadette, please remain standing if I would have you join me on stage we’re going to transition into our first panel So, would you please continue a round of applause Bernadette (applause) Kevin Chris Reagan, Danielle, and Kimberly, please join us on stage (applause) Female Speaker: Good morning everyone How are you doing today? Great It’s my privilege to moderate this wonderful, exciting panel to talk about STEM and what they’re doing to help our students become more engaged in STEM We’ve had wonderful introductions for them and you have their bios, so rather than take time to reiterate all the wonderful, beautiful things that David has already introduced them to us on, I’m going to go ahead and ask each of them to give us a few words about how they are building awareness to make the opportunities to engage and support and explore students and STEM better So, I’m going to ask my first panelist, and please introduce yourself Your name? Kevin Clark: Good morning My name is Kevin Clark from George Mason University And I’d also like to congratulate all of the other champions My work really focuses on helping students to become creators instead of consumers And this idea is predicated on the notion that students and youth can create their own future, create the future that they want to see And so, creating their own future allows them to be involved in activities or educational opportunities So STEM gives them the opportunity to have educational options And the reason this is important to me is because one of my mentors once told me, “To whom much is given much is required.” My STEM education has afforded me a lot And now I see it as my role to help students get all of the educational opportunities that is possible for them I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my doctoral student, Asia Williams, who’s at Hoffman Boston because she does a lot of the STEM work, and my wife, my son, and my daughter, who have joined me today So, keeping in mind that creation is really about helping students to equip themselves with the skills to build the future that they want to see Thank you (applause) Female Speaker: Thank you for those remarks I’ll ask the next speaker, would you please make the same comments about building awareness? Chris Emdin: Sure My name is Chris Emdin I’m a professor of Science Education at Teacher’s College at Columbia University and I’m currently a fellow at the DuBois Institute at Harvard University And my work revolves around utilizing aspects of youth culture that are oftentimes perceived as anti-academic and anti-intellectual and really delving deeply into the complexities of those cultural art forms and find ways that those art forms connect to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics I think for young people, a chief thing is to help them understand this notion of what it means to be science-minded

So to be scientific or to be mathematical doesn’t mean being able to spit out formulas or being able to memorize information It is able to have a certain consciousness, a certain sensibility, it’s able to think in interesting ways, to be creative, to be innovative And so, what I try to do with young people is let them see how what they do every day is inherently scientific You know, in the process of writing that rap and the process of doing that dance, there are complex physics and mathematical formulas in that process and once young people get opened up to the idea that, you know, who I am as I am means that I am inherently scientific, you know, you open up new worlds for them And the work is also, for me, a response to — you know, President Obama said that education is the civil rights issue of our time And that is always in the back of my mind And I feel like if that’s the case then STEM education is, you know, the most significant piece of that part because of the statistics related to underachievement when it comes to African-American populations in the STEM disciplines So, you know, let youth know that their being, their presence, is a political act, that who they are is inherently academic and scientific, and once you make those connections for them and tell them they don’t have to divorce who they are from being academic, you know, you open up new worlds And so we do that through hip hop We do that through art And we do that on social media through hip hop ed, which is saying that hip hop and education are inherently connected And that essentially is the work (applause) Female Speaker: Thank you I’m going to ask the next speaker to please speak on that also Reagan Flowers: Sure Dr. Reagan Flowers I am the founder of C-STEM, teacher and student support services and “C” is real critical in the STEM, which is communications If our children are not good readers and writers, they do not do well in math and science So you have to approach those disciplines together in an integrative fashion The work we do is very critical because I’m a firm believer that children cannot be, become, what they have not experienced They cannot dream what they don’t know So our work is very critical in exposing them to the unlimited opportunities that are available to them in that STEM space And we start early We build this awareness through teacher development and with those students as early as pre-K through 12th grade and we remain with them building pipelines and creating opportunities for them to remain with STEM as long as they possibly can And we do it through real world experiences that are inspired by industry to give them experiences that are relevant so that they can connect with the learning, so that the light bulb can come on and they can see how it applies to their life, where they can exist in that space, and we find relevant ways dealing with robotics, geoscience, 3D printing, film making, photography There’s art, we’ve been integrating art through murals and sculptings so that we can connect with all children so that they can see that STEM is a way of life, it’s not a department or compartment It’s applying what you know to living and thriving and innovating and creating and existing in the world So that’s the work we do, both nationally and internationally (applause) Female Speaker: I’m going to ask the next speaker to please speak on what you do to build awareness, also Danielle Lee: Hello, I’m Dr. Danielle Lee Online I’m known as DNLee, so my initials and last name And what I do is I share science I’m a biologist I’m an active scientist so I spend a good deal of the year in Africa doing research And I use social media to actually share those real life experiences of what I’m doing in science because all too often we teach science in a way that is not concordant with how we do science In other words, I’d like to remind people that science is a verb It’s what I do I experience I develop hypotheses I test hypotheses I read I write I write a lot I read some more I revise I measure I present And those are the things that young people and young adults are missing out And so, when they’re in science class they’re bored to death because we’re teaching them the history of someone else’s discoveries instead of cultivating in them those skills, the scientific method, to help them make their own discoveries And I use social media to share those real world experiences of myself I like to raise the profile of other scientists of color and those of us who live in many different intersections of “isms,” and to demonstrate the issues that we’re dealing with But despite some of our issues, we’re still here And we’re still making contributions because the African-American experience in STEM has always existed and I like to use social media to remind people that STEM belongs in our community We need to recognize that we’ve always had this genius in science and engineering and mathematics and to recognize we have a role in it so we can stop being one, distrustful of it, and to recognize that we have a place in it so that we can

innovate and we can gain those gains that we’ve been so desperately talking about And so, when we do that — and so, that’s what I do I get excited I held church up here all of a sudden — social media and science (laughter) But that’s what I do I just simply just use social media to lift the veil as to what’s actually happening in science (applause) Female Speaker: I’m going to ask the last speaker to please also speak on what you do to build awareness in STEM Kimberly Scott: Good morning I’m Dr. Kimberly Scott, associate professor at Arizona State University And my work is with CompuGirls The way that we approach our program comes from a mantra that I have assumed over many, many years of working as an urban educator, both here in the United States and elsewhere, and that is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable And we embrace that idea for the mere fact that the statistics clearly indicate something that many of us, including myself, are fooled by And that is we look at the statistics and see the so few girls of color, African-American, Latina, and Native American girls, are not entering the computing work force, the most lucrative of fields And so, we assume that they’re not interested And too often programs are developed based on this disinterest And what we do in CompuGirls is challenge that notion and reveal that girls from these underserved communities are just as, and in some cases, more interested than other communities, but oftentimes they don’t have the opportunity to not only create and innovate, but also use the technology as a means to further their own lives and their families And so, in CompuGirls we ask girls ages 13 to 18 to access their already extant assets and to create digital products that are going to further their backgrounds And so, the girls engage in project-based multimedia projects, but that they are all around research And so, they develop and they identify and then they research issues that are going to make an impact on their community, further their own self-awareness, and hopefully create those collaborative forces that we need One of the things that’s also crucial in our efforts is collaboration And so, not only am I honored to be with such esteemed guests, because I think it signals a lot of what we do in CompuGirls, which is collaboration, coalition building It’s much easier to break one stick than it is a bundle And what we encourage in CompuGirls is pure mentoring so that it’s just not about me getting an increased awareness in science, technology, engineering, and math, but that I am, along with my sisters, understanding issues in a culturally-responsive way so we can further all of our communities so that we can move forward in this digital age (applause) Female Speaker: Okay, I’d like to pose the next question Each of you have presented a very unique way and perspective of dealing with building awareness in our community of STEM So can you help explain to the audience why you feel that it’s suddenly so important now for us to build more awareness and more students of color in STEM when chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, has been around for centuries? Why is it suddenly so important to our community now to participate in the diversity of the STEM fields? Chris Emdin: I’ll take that So, I think the idea that there hasn’t been a hyper-focus on STEM careers all along is actually a fallacy I think it’s always existed I think what’s happened now is that with the shifting demographics of our country and the nature of teaching and learning in schools, particular in STEM disciplines, that position people of color, youth of color in particular, as outside of the best and brightest that can do well in STEM, we now have a whole generation of young people of color who have been for very long ignored and who census data tells us is now going to be the numerical majority So the issue is essentially is now that you have a numerical majority that has been systematically ignored for a very long time, in order for us to have some equity — even outside of equity, in order for us to have some full representation nationally for us to be successful, then we have to focus on everyone Additionally, you know, I think now it’s an awareness of, you know, the nuances of civil rights issues So I said earlier that, you know, there was a statement made that education is a civil rights issue of our time And I think the most egregious violation of those civil rights has been the extraction of youth culture from the nature of the delivery of content And so, part of the issue why we’re focusing on it now is that the chickens have come home to roost, we’ve realized that we have ignored these populations for a very long time, we have taught them in ways that don’t meet their needs You know, achievement gaps are persistent, it can’t be these populations, it has to be the nature of the structure of schooling So now right, the focus for these populations is trying

to undo the wrongs And to undo the wrongs, we have to have a method of the delivery of the information, different approaches that sort of signify the kind of things that this panel is doing Female Speaker: Okay Would anyone else like to make a comment on that? Kevin Clark: Yes I think with the prevalence of technology, technology has moved light years in the last 10 to 15 years So now, anybody can build an app Anybody can create their own piece of media Now, what that does is create an opportunity for people who in the past did not have a voice in those arenas to now have a voice Now we don’t have to wait for someone to make a movie about us We can make the movie We don’t have to wait for someone to create an app or a program that teaches us in the way that we think we should be learning We can create those products ourselves So I think the reason that STEM has become more of an issue now is because the tools are here We can use the tools that are available and equip ourselves and equip youth to begin to create products and create opportunities that are specific to our needs and to meeting the needs of what — of the future in terms of the workforce Female Speaker: I’m going to ask another question now Outside of the best and brightest, is it possible for the C student to find their way through the STEM field? Reagan Flowers: Sure I will take that C-STEM is for all kids and educating children, all can — all children can achieve and I say that because I sit here before you, yes, a PhD, but many people don’t know the story behind my journey, meaning I failed second grade I made it to fifth grade without knowing how to multiply, and I showed up every day to school And it wasn’t that I wanted to be a failure, but fortunately that I eventually did shift to a school environment in rural Mississippi that invested in me and taught me how to learn And so I am that example that every child can achieve and every child can learn And STEM — what’s so fascinating about it, it’s project-based, it’s integrated, it’s real world There are no losers in that space Now, there’s — there are different levels of innovation There are different levels of creativity But every child can succeed in STEM, and so in our program, we tell our schools, “Don’t just take C-STEM and give it to your best and brightest It’s for your gifted and talented, your kid that’s on the bubble, your kid that is just average, your kid who’s disengaged and sitting in the back of the classroom and hiding behind the other students so that you don’t call on them.” It’s for all children, so every child can excel in STEM, but you’ve got to find them and meet them where they are and bring them along and you’ve got to continue to invest in them You know, we talk about the Michael Jordans of the world Michael Jordan didn’t become Michael Jordan from birth He practiced, practiced, practiced, (laughs), right? And so that’s what it requires in STEM in order to — for our children to succeed Danielle Lee: I like to tell people all the time I was the least likely candidate I didn’t even know a PhD was possible I never made better than a C in biology all through undergrad and here I am today with a PhD in biology I didn’t know this was going to happen and that’s because the grades we use are a scale and sometimes those grades aren’t about testing intellectual capacity or concept comprehension Sometimes they’re just about the test And so you can have kids who are amazingly well at taking tests and they still can’t explain anything to you because at the essence of what science is, science — yeah, we learn the scientific method, but it’s about do you comprehend how to observe, form a question, and develop hypotheses and test it? You don’t need — you really don’t need a PhD to do that Now, what the PhD does is train you in ways in order to understand how to do that, how to find resources Having a PhD doesn’t mean I know a lot I just know how to find answers I’m really good at finding answers (laughter) And that’s what we ultimately need to teach all children so there’s absolutely a space for C kids And in fact, I directed most of my outreach activity toward those least likely candidates because those kids that are honor students, those kids that have parents as amazing advocates, they’re going to be okay They have systems in place and parents in place and capitals in place to make sure they get through It’s those kids in the middle on the bubble and perhaps even below it still who need someone to give them more clarity and to really outline those paths and possibilities and invest in them in time and guidance in mentoring And so there’s absolutely a place for it, and most of the people I know who are really, really great in science, we were all in some ways on the bubble Yeah, there are always the bright ones, but those aren’t the ones, you know,

getting accolades for the most part They’re so busy in the lab, they’re not replicating themselves, and that’s what I aim to do I’m all about making as many versions of me, girls from the hood — (laughter) — because I go around science and I’m the only version of me that I see And if we don’t really get attention to these young people, I’m not going to have any academic progeny and I really do need some academic progeny, (laughs) (applause) Christopher Emdin: And just for the record, the most prolific and brilliant scientists of our time historically have not been successful in traditional schooling I think it’s very important for us to remind ourselves of that So if you think about the Einsteins of the world, we think about the Niels Bohrs of the world, they went through the process of schooling and were unsuccessful in the traditional process And so, you know, what your stories highlight to me is just that, that we place so much emphasis on folks who are able to do school and those folks who do school well will find some level of success But do we want to create people who do well in school or do we want to create innovators? Do you want to create people who are going to take ideas that already exist and remix them and flip them and do innovative things? Because even in science, even in science, there is a — there’s a service industry There are folks who have science degrees and PhDs and they’re in the lab doing the grunt work and those folks are not the experts and the stars of STEM And what we want to do is we want to create the stars, the experts, the innovators, and those folks are oftentimes those who don’t do school but do creativity, do imagination, do metaphor and analogy, you know, who draw seemingly disparate ideas and make connections between them And for the record, those are the same skills and traits and dispositions of emcees, but that’s a whole other — (laughter) That’s a whole other conversation (applause) Female Speaker: Okay, let’s piggyback on that idea about creating innovators If you could talk to the superintendents of the world and tell them what they needed to do to have an innovation program, what would you recommend? What would you tell them? What kind of changes would you tell them that they need to make to their curriculum and to their teaching pedagogy to increase or create innovators? Kimberly Lee: I’ll take that A lot of times in my work, I have the privilege to talk and work with superintendents, and having been a teacher, I always give two answers One is the practical answer and then one is the aspirational answer So I’ll give both The practical answer is that we are in a time where high stakes testing is present It’s real And there’s a lot of concern at the classroom level and certainly all the way up to superintendents that the kids have to pass the test And so many times our innovations and our programs, no matter how phenomenal they are, there’s the question asked — is how is this going to help the kids pass the test? And I understand that, having been in the classroom I completely get that and I say, “You’re right Let’s break it down — how the program is not only teaching technical literacy, but it’s also, particularly in CompuGirls girls, teaching girls how to articulate their ideas, teaching them how to conduct research, teaching them how to synthesize literature, teaching them how to engage others in a collaborative process within their community So it’s teaching them skills that are going to help them achieve But then there’s the aspirational answer and that goes back to the point that was said earlier, I think, is how do we measure success? If we only measure success based on test scores and what an individual achieves on a particular paper, then aren’t we limiting ourselves? Can’t we have a discussion to redefine success so that it includes how far I move my community or what kind of impact do I make through my technological innovations that not only creates the progenies, but also works me out of a job so that the next leaders can come and do something that I can’t even imagine? Danielle Lee: One of the things I noticed as — because I had an opportunity to work in a high school classroom and I taught freshman and sophomores, and I was amazed at the disconnect between the expectations in science education at that secondary level and that first couple of years at post-secondary level and I wish there was an opportunity for scientists — because that’s the thing When you get to college, you’re being taught by scientists, people who are actively testing hypotheses That’s what a scientist is And we’re not thinking about for the most part if you came from a good school other than are you prepared to do well in class We’re not thinking about your district scores We’re not thinking about your ACT score Now, those things are designed to be measures of how well you might do in that class and so this overemphasis of these high stake tests really disconnects us from those skills that we end up cultivating in the college classroom or in the mentored experience of science So I would like for superintendents to comprehend that all those, you know, checks and balances that — not saying that they’re not important, but they don’t always translate into those real world skills that helps one become

a scientist or engineer Reagan Flowers: And if I could just add to that, I would say to superintendents, “Maximize the collaborative partnerships that are out here to remain innovative, to remain current, to remain relevant.” We’re out here doing the work and we’re interfacing and engaging with the energy companies, the tech companies that are out here leading in these spaces of STEM and our schools really fall behind It’s hard for them to keep up, and so we need to see more stopping and taking time to really leverage, collaborate, and partner so that we can work more cohesively together and that we can work more closely even, you know, at the graduate’s level and not so much at the grass tops We have — I think there’s a lot of programs that are out here doing great things, but we — we’re throwing them at the problem without understanding if they’re a good fit for the community, for the culture, for the demographics that you’re trying to place it in You know, what may work in California may not work in Texas or it may not work with black or Hispanic children, and we try to force it There’s not a one size fit all, and whether, you know, the intents are very good — the intentions and, you know, the good will is there, but the outcomes — we’re still not seeing that You know, how is it that in this time and this day and age with all the billions of dollars that we’ve thrown at STEM education and just education period we have such an enormous achievement gap? And that — and I can only think that in large part it’s because of a lack of understanding of those that we’re claiming we’re trying to serve We’re being a disservice to them They are showing up for it, they are hungry for it, but we’re not feeding them We’re not giving them that rigorous education that they need to truly succeed So if the superintendents can really stop and look at all the gazillion partners that are within their districts and really lay it out and help leverage that — you know, we have school closings, particularly in black communities and our children are suffering They need that advocacy They need someone who understands them and they need organizations and groups who understand and can relate and know how to bring them along, who can speak their language, and I don’t think we sit down enough to do that and then when you have such turnover in our schools and our communities with leadership, those partnerships they continue to cycle in and out, they fall to the wayside, there’s no one to keep those partners there, keep them involved And so there’s a communication gap, there’s a tremendous disconnect, and so I would really, you know, like to put that challenge out to school leaders to really strengthen collaboration and partnership Kevin Clark: The last thing I would say is parental involvement We know that parental involvement is one of the leading indicators of school success So schools need to figure out ways to get more parents in the building throughout the day and get parents involved on weekends, get parents familiar with the curriculum, and to provide parents with tools that they could take home to support their students’ STEM development So getting parents to be more of an integral part in the education of the children in the school would then transfer to the home Christopher Emdin: You know what, I was going to skip this question because I felt I was — like I was talking too much, but — (laughter) — you know, that’s just me and I’m just going to do me So I’ve been waiting for people to ask me this question for a very long time Like, how do you foster innovations? So the first thing I would say is one, you have to have more robust forms of assessment So I think we always play this like this zero sum game Either we have assessments or we just don’t want any assessments at all And the answers have more robust assessments So you can have the traditional written assessments you have and then also have kids have to perform and have kids have to present and have kids have to dance and have all of the students have to be successful on all those measures of success, because what happens then is the kid who’s inherently successful only on that one forum will start finding out that they have a deficiency in others and the kid who’s deficient in one form, the traditional form, starts realizing that they have expertise in others And so if you have the assessments to be more robust, you turn on more students That’s one Number two, how do you recruit your teachers? If you want innovation, you’ve got to recruit teachers from the communities where the students are from and you have to also change the teacher training model Do you know how many urban schools I go to visit in and the populations are completely different from the demographic of the students culturally or ethnically? And that’s fine That doesn’t mean the teacher’s going to be bad But then you ask that teacher, “Where do you live?” “Oh, I live 20 miles out, 35 miles out.”

So one thing for innovation is what if we had a model for teacher recruitment that part of the necessity — part of the requirement was that you had to live in the communities where you were teaching at? If the teachers had to live in the community where they were teaching in, they start learning about the culture of the young people, they start understanding those youth experiences every day, they start coming up with better examples for how to teach, and that translates into their classrooms I mean, I could go on forever Assessments, teacher recruitment, having partners that are not necessarily licensed educators The best teachers that I’ve found are in barber shops, the pizza shops, and are in the hood And these folks are oftentimes school dropouts If you have those folks come into schools and to be partners — and I call them cultural ambassadors or cultural brokers, that could stand somewhere between the teacher and the student to relay the information and make sure that they understand each other across these boundaries, that’s another avenue for innovation I will stop here because I could go on forever, but those are some things that we can do to push for innovation in science classrooms or STEM classrooms Female Speaker: Thank you for those comments (applause) At this time, we’d like to open up the mic to the audience and see if you have any questions Please raise your hand and they’ll bring the mic to you to make sure that everyone can hear in the room Julia Clark: I’m Julia Clark from the National Science Foundation and I’m pleased to see two of our persons who have been funded, Kevin Clark and Kimberly, up there We are interested and I’m interested in the achievement gap and some of you have mentioned it a couple of times up there We find that in the achievement gap, persons are — don’t have — in those schools do not have qualified teachers, they get less funding, they get less expectation, and have rigorous curriculum And I want to know what can NSF or some of the other federal agencies — or what can the federal government do in assisting to maybe to help to close the achievement gap? Danielle Lee: I was going to say that too Christopher Emdin: Fund my project (laughter) Reagan Flowers: Yes And, you know, in large part, yes, it does translate to funding, you know? When — as external partners with schools and in the community, we are doing our part as much as we can to assist in closing that achievement gap, but it takes partnerships and it takes funding to make that happen When you talk about qualified teachers and, you know, we can’t get into the business as an external partner of running the school district and we’re not supplying them with teachers, but what we can do is try to fill that void in terms of making sure if there is a not a certified teacher in that class that they are doing C-STEM because C-STEM is that external partner that’s helping to develop their content knowledge in STEM, giving them the curriculum, giving them the support and the resources, and helping to hold them accountable to implementation and engaging students effectively in the work until the schools can be better places of learning It takes the community We have to hold them accountable but we’ve got to be there with solutions, not just hitting them over the head and telling them what they’re not doing But in order for us to be there with solutions, we’ve got to have funding from the NSFs of the world to expand this work and have a deeper impact within the community Kimberly Scott: And let me just say more specifically, I think that when we’re assessing proposals we need to take very seriously those programs that say they’re trying to broaden participation by working with underrepresented groups That’s — and I hate to say it, but I will That’s a catch phrase That’s become en vogue to say But unless we are really looking at those proposals for evidence that is more than just, “I’m going into this community and I’m going to do this,” but evidence such as, “I’m going to create partnerships and collaborations with individuals in the community and this is exactly what I’m going to do with whom I’m potentially going to do it and how I’m going to assess how I’m going to engage in these strategies,” I think that funders need to really redefine what that means when we talk about broadening participation Danielle Lee: Yeah, that was exactly what I wanted to talk about because as — I’ve had lots of NSF funding too, at the broader impacts I’ve seen what I call very lazy broader impact statements and we need a better way to assess it And it may take — we need to bring in the EDD people and the sociology people to really help figure out what is a good broader impact statement It would be more meaningful for a scientist to deliberately partner with a scientist or a science ed program that already has connections in the communities and they can already do it than to just say, “I’m going to go talk to a high school classroom.” That is really, really frustrating that a lot of NSF funding goes for amazing good science and they shirk us on the broader impacts And they do And then those of us who do a lot of broader impacts — the other thing that NSF could do is you could — you can use your influence to help change the metrics of how the academy

measures scientists like me, because scientists like me who do amazingly well at broader impacts, there’s not a lot of opportunity for us to still get measured accurately in academia because they’re caring more about how much money I bring in, how many students I train, whether I do that well or not So NSF and NIH have changed the game by incentivizing broader impacts Before, no one would have looked twice at half of me and the Shaniquas and little Johnnys of the world Now they’re looking at them but not because they’re genuinely interested in training them And we need to put the hammer down and hold those people accountable, and I think NSF and NIH and all the other science funding agencies can really, really leverage their influence and hold people accountable on that Female Speaker: Thank you for that question (applause) Thank you for those answers We’re going to keep the answers a little briefer so that we can get as many questions from the audience as possible and respond Jamila Bey: Hi, I’m Jamila Bey I’m a journalist and I’m based here in Washington, D.C. It’s an honor to be here with all of you today I’m excited that this conversation is happening at the White House because I want you folks to talk about policy and government for just a moment We look at the fact that our politicians often don’t come from any kind of science background They’re legislating poor science and if we look at school boards, we’ll start to cry Female Speaker: So can we get you to go ahead and get to your — Jamila Bey: Okay Forgive me Forgive me Female Speaker: — more — thank you Jamila Bey: Understanding that we are in a culture in a political system that does not support trying to innovate and develop younger people to get into the STEM fields and recognize what you do, how do we talk about that at a policy level nationally? Christopher Emdin: I mean, I would say that the big issue — part — this whole battle, to be frank, you know, when we talk about policy is the lack of exposure for folks who do real work and who understand science So there has to be a — almost like a media frenzy surrounding articulating what science is and what it does So people would completely forever make poor decisions about science because they don’t know science All they know is the science that they’ve experienced when they were in school, so they know schooling science And so that means that there has to be another population, another generation who advocates for what actual work is in a public sphere So we need people in the — the media shifts narratives and policy, believe it or not And so if we have enough media savvy people who understand the nature of science, who understand the complexity of the discipline and can articulate in that public sphere what it is that we are doing and what science truly is, then it counters against what the existing policy folks’ laws because it creates a different consciousness You know, if you have a general populace who now understands what science is or what it should be, they start clamoring for something different But as long as we keep what real, true science is or real, true engineering and mathematics is silent and we keep replicating old models, then the people are thinking that there’s — it’s because of their constituents by keeping archaic forms of the disciplines Female Speaker: Thank you We have time for one more question before we run out of time and allow the speakers to end with some closing remarks Female Speaker: Here I was still formulating my question, but I’ll see what I’ve come up with, (laughs) This question is addressed perhaps to Dr. Emdin How do you get youth to embrace their — you just used the word that I was thinking about — their consciousness, their creativity I think more — I’m thinking along the lines of maybe the psychological notion or emotional presence to see how they can — you know, to build — how do you say — to build — Female Speaker: Consciousness awareness Female Speaker: Well, consciousness, but also confidence I see a lack of confidence I see many youth going into the game already defeated So I think your program talked about all the different kinds of areas, so maybe you can address that Kevin Clark: Let me jump in here just for a second I think part of it is helping young people to understand that it’s okay to fail early and giving young people those opportunities to do it in situations where it’s safe and where they can be supported so that when they get out there and it’s for real that they’re armed with the experience, the knowledge, and the fortitude to be able to push through that So if we do that creatively through the development of games or media, then when they get in front of someone and they have to build something that is on a tight deadline and requires resources, they know exactly how to do it So providing opportunities for youth to experiment, to fail, to succeed, and to also benefit from the counsel and knowledge of those around them Christopher Emdin: And I’d just add, you know,

a consciousness shift happens when people learn to embrace multiple identities I love this notion of the hybridized identity So if you get a kid in the hood, their whole entire identity surrounds around their hood experience I mean, I rock my hoodie this way, I walk this way, I talk this way, I rhyme, I spit Like, that whole identity formation revolves around a very distinct set of possibilities for who they are So the work has to be for them to expand their identities The — so this notion of hybridized identities means just because you fit into this mold doesn’t mean that you don’t have the ability to be successful in another space and the skills that you have in this one unique space helps you to be powerful in other spaces So when I go to school and work with young people, like, when I — if I’m going to a particular school, like, that’s the day that I rock my Js Like, I’m not a Jordan guy on a regular basis, but that’s the day I rock my Jordans That’s the way that — I dress a little casual Like, I love being the one dude who did not wear a full suit because, you know, when you — because kids start identifying that, “Okay, wait, I don’t have to fit a mold to be that? So who I am already means something else?” That all of a sudden there’s a shift in the consciousness So if I go up to a kid and he says, “Oh, this is Dr. Emdin from Columbia and, you know, nice to meet you,” like, no, I want to give you a pound You know, I want to give you a pound, you know what I mean, and I want to use slang and I want to — I don’t want to be hyper local And then I say, “Oh, and by the way, I’m the PhD dude.” And then you start teaching them about the art of the code switch But it comes — you can’t teach a young person to open up to new possibilities if they have no vision of what multiple selves is So you’ve got to have people in front of them that show them that there are different worlds, then you teach them how to navigate those worlds Then all of a sudden, their consciousness shifts because their identity becomes more robust I can be more than what they said I could be and I can be who I am and still be dope and still be smart and still have swag And so if you continue to teach them that it’s only one thing, then you have a fixed identity If you suddenly — you can do all things at once and be academic, then you have an opportunity for some consciousness shifting (applause) Female Speaker: So before we close, I’d like to ask each panelist to give a two minute closing and also include your Twitter accounts so that we can follow you Male Speaker: One minute closing Female Speaker: One minute closing now (laughter) Kevin Clark: I didn’t even start talking yet (laughter) Female Speaker: 30 seconds (laughter) Kevin Clark: My Twitter account is #KevinClarkePhD In closing, when we talk about STEM and particularly getting African Americans more interested and engaged in STEM, we need to also think about pathways because when we get students motivated and excited and raring to go and they want to build games and become a biologist, then we need to show them the light, show them the pathway And that pathway includes everyone that they come in contact with, whether it’s the teacher, the parent, the cultural ambassadors, all of those people So when we think about STEM, we also need to think about pathways Christopher Emdin: I’ll just use my last minute to say how deeply humbled I am to be on this stage with such brilliant people and just to give props and kudos to all of the Champions of Change and also to give amazing thanks to my beautiful wife and my daughter Sidney and my really, really amazing dope friends Derek and Sophia Luke, my cousin Theron for being here So I’ll use my minute to just say thank you for having me Reagan Flowers: Okay, Twitter — Female Speaker: Did we get your — we didn’t get your hashtag Christopher Emdin: Oh, my Twitter Ooh, my Twitter @ChrisEmdin So @C-H-R-I-S-E-M-D-I-N, and also please follow the hashtag “HipHopEd” — H-I-P-H-O-P-E-D Every Tuesday night at 9 P.M we have conversations on Twitter on the intersections of hip hop and education, so please join us Reagan Flowers: Okay, my — Female Speaker: And when you say your Twitter account, please say it slowly — Christopher Emdin: Slowly Female Speaker: — so we can understand — Christopher Emdin: I’m from the Bronx We talk fast I’m sorry Male Speaker: — program Christopher Emdin: @C-H-R-I-S-E-M-D-I-N Thank you Reagan Flowers: Okay, my Twitter account is @CSTEM — C-S-T-E-M — ORG — O-R-G as well as @DrReaganFlowers I want to say that it’s critical to engage and build that excitement in children by just giving them an opportunity, but give them a sustained opportunity Don’t just give them a six week fix or a weekend fix Challenge them Give them something that’s relevant and they will connect Hold them accountable They want to be challenged And see them through Support them through the process The world is my platform and my mission is empowering students and providing them unlimited opportunities to excel in STEM And so I challenge you to join us, join our movement, reach out to us, and visit us at Danielle Lee: So my name is Danielle Lee and my Twitter handle is @DNLee5

And what I’ve realized is that to really get young people excited — that we’ve got to really build the adults around them So I no longer believe in this notion that the nuclear family is the most essential unit It really is about the peripheral community and the extended family, and if we can empower adults around them, whether it’s the grannies, the aunties, the church leaders — all those adults around them to consistently put the thing in their head that they can be successful at anything regardless of what their report card says, and so that does mean we need to bone up and work with the media to get these messages out there And I think that’s what we do And so you can follow me @DNLee5 You can also follow me as well as a consortium of other blacks in STEM at the hashtag “BlackandSTEM”, so S-T-E-M, as well as the other Twitter handle “TheDarkSci.” So The-D-A-R-K-S-C-I, “TheDarkSci.” We’re a group of African American scientists as well as African American science and health journalists trying to really emphasize and remind people that STEM is and always has been a part of the African American experience Kimberly Scott: My hashtag or my Twitter account is #CompuGirls and like so many of the other panelists, I want to say thank you and I’m really, truly honored and grateful to accept this award because it allows me to see that it’s not normal — these statistics, that the gap that all of us are challenging is not something that we should accept as normal and that we can continue to challenge it in our work And we need to challenge it collectively, and I’m honored to be part of the collective and to work more on these efforts I’m thankful also to my sister, her husband, my daughter, the youngest CompuGirl, and my father, who traveled from Vermont to come here today, and to all of you because we can’t do STEM unless we work together Thank you (applause) Female Speaker: I’d like to thank David for the opportunity to be the moderator I have an engineering degree I finished in the ’70s, and when I finished, I didn’t have people that look like us in my class I’m very passionate about making sure that we have more people that look like us in STEM Statistics tell us right now that China teaches physics to their children in the third grade India is using gaming technology to teach their children algebra So they tell their children, “Go in there and play that game so you can learn algebra.” We’re still teaching the traditional way, the boring way We haven’t changed and we need people like you to help advocate and to help change and to help motivate and to move our participation levels to where they need to be Thank you so much (applause)