What is Project Scientist’s mission?
Our promise is to educate, coach and advocate for girls and women with an aptitude, talent and passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We are working toward an inclusive and creative science and engineering workforce.
Tell us your nonprofit story—how did it get started and why?
Project Scientist began summer 2011 in Charlotte out of the home of founder, Sandy Marshall. While working as the Executive Director and Founder of The NASCAR Foundation, Sandy learned of the disadvantages that girls and women confront in technical majors and careers, and became committed to doing what she could to make a difference in her own community – Project Scientist had lift off! Personally, Sandy had experienced gender stereotyping and a lack of role models as she pursued a STEM major in college and as a result changed majors. As a mother of two young girls with a passion for science, Sandy remains committed to changing the status quo for her girls as well as girls across the country.
Project Scientist’s mission is based on well-respected research and trends that show girls with a high skill, aptitude, and talent for STEM subjects are not currently served or identified at a young age. Underserved and unidentified girls are not provided opportunities to study math and science, or technical topics at a pace, depth and breadth commensurate with their talents and interests. We created Project Scientist to change the world’s view of “who” a scientist is and “what” a scientist does. The vision of Project Scientist is to transform the face of all technical careers–scientists, engineers, computer programmers, mathematicians, you name it–by nurturing our future scientists, today! They will lead the world in solving tomorrow’s greatest challenges! Through engagement with some of our nation’s leading corporate brands, top universities, museums, science centers, small businesses, well-trained teachers and hands-on curricula, our girls discover the endless opportunities available to them in STEM.
Our programs include a summer STEM intensive camp on university campuses like UNC Charlotte and Caltech and year-round STEM Expeditions when schools are closed in Charlotte and Pasadena.
Describe one of your best experiences since starting at Project Scientist?
The best experiences for me are the ones where our Project Scientist community comes together in celebration of our girls’ successes. During our summer Academy at UNC Charlotte and Caltech we hold Family Celebration events every Friday. We invite parents, funders and female STEM role models to join our girls in celebrating their success from the week. The event includes a science fair, public speaking, STEM demonstrations, and finally a public declaration by every girl. The declarations get me every time. The declarations truly show why Project Scientist exists. Girls from ages four to twelve get up in front of hundreds of adults and declare what they want to be when they grow up, they share any “aha” moments of the week, STEM subjects they’d like to explore further, or simply something they loved during their Project Scientist experience.
Of course, the declaration is a perfect way for girls to communicate to their parents about their time at Project Scientist, but the reason behind this experience goes much deeper. First, parents are the number one factor of determining a girl’s success in STEM subjects. By having parents attend the celebration and seeing and hearing their daughters’ STEM goals and dreams, they are validating interests and setting their children up for success. Second, research tells us that by outwardly stating our goals we are more likely to hold ourselves accountable and making these goals a reality. Finally, as attendees and the Project Scientist community we are now personally invested in these girls achieving their goals in STEM. As an organization our long-term goal is to ensure that Grace becomes a surgeon, Ellie becomes a chemical engineer, or that Jasmine continues to pursue becoming an astronaut while also becoming a rock star! The world of STEM is an option for our girls, whether societal norms portray that or not, that is why Project Scientist exists.
November 9-13 is Apparo’s Local Good Week—what does giving back to the community mean to you and why is it important?
As a social entrepreneur, I’ve seen first-hand the impact one person can make and I am very passionate about encouraging everyone to find what they can do to help one person or millions. You don’t have to be wealthy, an ivy league graduate, or be the most powerful person in your community to make a difference. Find what speaks to your heart, where you might have a talent to support that issue, and go for it! Whatever you can give, time, money, connections, or creative solutions will help our community and future generations. We are all busy, but we can all do one little thing each week to make a better future for those in need.
How has working with Apparo enabled you to achieve your mission more efficiently?
As a new organization, we’ve worked hard to set up our programs to run as efficiently and effectively as possible utilizing the latest technology available. We were fortunate to receive a grant from a funder to help us create a robust data system using Salesforce. It’s helped us in our academy sign-up process as well as tracking our success. We enlisted the support of Apparo to help our team to gain skills around Salesforce and our system specifically. The coursework and networking allowed our team to become more confident and comfortable in using the system and in the end providing a better customer experience for our constituents.