Relationships at the heart of the STEM pipeline

Sara Grady
February 14, 2017
Mentorship is at the heart of the Science in Society ethos. We believe long-term relationships, which encourage, support and challenge learners, are an integral part of success. Parents, teachers, coaches, and scout leaders often serve as mentors – but mentors can also be found in the most unexpected places
Eight years ago, Wendy Roldan was a high school freshman. Mike Kennedy was faculty at Northwestern, just establishing Science in Society as the science education and community-driven organization it would become.
They met quite by chance. A local CPS teacher wanted to use a Science Club curriculum model in her own afterschool program. (All our Science Club curricula are freely available on the Science Club website.) Mike suggested the group recruit an enthusiastic and scientifically-skilled high schooler. This volunteer could support the program and be a role model for younger students. Together, they found their perfect match in Wendy.
A few informal meetings between Mike and Wendy helped get the ball rolling. The program launched without a hitch. And for most faculty (and for many teenagers), the conversation would have ended there.
But for Wendy and Mike, this was only the beginning. In the years that followed, Wendy had an expert to call on, someone connected to the field she loved. As Wendy worked her way through high school, Mike made himself available. Offering support and feedback whenever she needed it.
When Wendy was passionate about math and problem solving but didn’t know what careers they might offer, she and Mike discussed engineering.
When she began to think about college – she would be the first in her family to attend – Mike encouraged her to consider Northwestern. He even helped arrange her campus visit.
When Wendy accepted her scholarship offer from the McCormick School of Engineering, her family (and Mike) were overjoyed.
Wendy is now a senior at Northwestern. She will graduate this spring with a degree in mechanical engineering. These days, her younger sister is a Northwestern undergraduate, too. The Northwestern Alumni & Development Office interviewed Wendy recently. In her interview, she talks about her choice to start a science career and her experience as a Wildcat. You can read the full story (and watch the video, including her awesome mom and dad!) here.
Wendy and Mike still stay in touch. He’s always there when she has a question or concern. Recently, she’s been in the office to talk about grad school. She’s currently interviewing at several doctoral programs around the country. Her chosen field? Science Education.


A digital science magazine published by Science in Society and written by Northwestern faculty, students and staff.

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