MSU club empowers future female STEM leaders

Khaoula Kamal, biomedical engineering major, is the incoming vice president of WISDOM.

Women in STEM Departmental Outreach Mentorship (WISDOM) aims to mentor upcoming women in STEM.

The club made its debut at Mississippi State University in October 2021. 

As Women’s History Month arrives, the organization is growing, empowering college hopefuls and each other. Its mission is to hold a light up to, empower and guide high school girls who have an interest in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Sarah Frances Downs and Erin Matthews felt the weight of being the minority in the science, technology, engineering and math field at the beginning of their undergraduate careers. They were behind in their classes and looking for support, ultimately finding that comfort in each other.

Downs and Matthews spoke to one another through a “women in STEM” group chat their freshmen year. Through this, they came up with their idea for WISDOM.

After a long, challenging process to form the club, the pair created the mentoring program they wish they had as incoming freshmen.

Downs, a junior biochemistry major on the pre-medical track, is a student adviser for WISDOM. She said she did not have a support system going into college, and WISDOM is an opportunity to give others a shoulder to lean on.

“I created it for my high school self and other girls that are like me in high school. So, that's kind of what inspired us to get it started,” Downs said.

In the past year and a half of its operation, WISDOM reached out to schools across Mississippi to talk to young women about the STEM pathway.

WISDOM recently became a nonprofit organization, accepting grants to help fund its purpose. From this, the organization started reaching out to high schools and other colleges in the state to start their own WISDOM chapters.

Maggie Jo Everett, a junior biochemistry major on the pre-medical track, is the outgoing vice president of WISDOM. She helps develop events and brainstorm future ideas for the group.

“The number one goal of what we're trying to do is just create a positive atmosphere and just allow the girls to really feel strong in their abilities,” Everett said.

Workshops, such as resume building and ACT practice, are common WISDOM events. Along with these workshops, the group holds Q&A sessions at each high school it visits.

Within its first year of activity, the club grew to approximately 130 members, including women and men.

Matthews, a junior majoring in biochemistry on the pre-medical track, is also student adviser for WISDOM. She said she enjoys seeing the club grow from a small idea to a working organization.

“It’s bigger than me at this point,” Matthews said. “The members come up with ideas and bring them to me that are incredible. And then we implement them, and it's like, everyone has a leadership position. That's just how the club feels.”

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