Members of the Oakdale-Riverbank-Escalon Branch and the Turlock-Modesto Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) met each other halfway at their annual Fund Luncheon at the Fruit Yard on Saturday, March 16 to hear Katy Dynarski, an AAUW 2018 Community Action Grant recipient, speak about her project.
Dynarski, who holds a Ph.D. in soils and biogeochemistry from the University of California, Davis wrote and was awarded a $5,000 grant from the organization, which helped with funding for the GOALS (Girls Outdoor Adventure Leadership in Science) program she co-founded. This collaborative program between UC Davis and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park is a free immersive science education program for high school girls from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Dynarski told attendees that as a child and teen she was an outdoor girl and science kid. She collected rocks and minerals and was forever asking questions. She was always interested in science and was told that she was smart. At first she thought she might become a doctor, but after doing course lab work in college and spending a summer working in the forests of Alberta, Canada doing field based research and observing super smart, strong women scientists doing this work she knew she was more drawn to the environmental field.
Dynarski felt that she was very lucky to have found this career path, but she observed that the field was predominately made up of white males. The farther she progressed in her doctoral studies, the more convinced she became that changing the culture of academia and outdoor spaces was needed if everyone’s voice and especially the voices of women and people of color were going to be heard. In the summer before her last year in the Ph.D. program at UC Davis, she learned about the GOALS (Girls’ Outdoor Adventure for Leadership and Science) program in North Carolina. She was so excited about it that she decided to start a similar program here. She gathered a team of 40 women graduate students and early career scientists to design, fundraise, and implement GOALS. Last summer seven 10th grade young women, two UC Davis trip leaders and one National Park trip leader spent 14 days at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park at the first GOALS outdoors experience. The participants engaged in hands-on learning, completed small scientific investigations of their own, went on two backcountry excursions, and completed a scientific experiment, which they designed and presented. The program didn’t end after the two weeks. Each girl was paired with a UC Davis mentor who has continued to meet with the mentee throughout the year, as well as attend follow-up events with her to help her prepare for college applications and expose her to a variety of STEM careers and female STEM role models.
The success of the program can best be summed up by the comments of one of the 2018 GOALS Scholars: “GOALS is such a great opportunity to get into the science field or to find interest in whatever career. Because, you know, we’re all young and we don’t know what we want to be or what field we’re going to go into, and it’s nice to have this opportunity to see if you’re interested in science or if you’re not. It’s something to allow girls like me to explore themselves, explore the world, explore science, and just run the world – because we never had that chance before – and I thank GOALS for that.”
Dynarski concluded her presentation by thanking AAUW for helping make this project a reality. She told the listeners that GOALS 2019 is being planned now, and that both UC Berkeley and UC Merced have expressed interest in starting GOALS chapters at their campuses. More information about GOALS or their crowdfunding campaign can be found at https://girlsoutdoorscience.com. For further information about AAUW, log on to www.aauw.org. Information about AAUW, ORE is at http://ore-ca.aauw.net or by emailing the branch at AAUW.ORE@gmail.com.