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Seeding Your Future earns national recognition

ISSUED: 24 August 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Dana Costa

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s Seeding Your Future program received the 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.

The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Seeding Your Future will be featured, along with 78 other recipients, in the September 2021 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

“We are thrilled to have gotten this recognition,” said Dr. Sytil Murphy, associate professor of physics and Seeding Your Future founder. “We did a Zoom happy dance because none of us were together when we were notified. It’s one thing to do the work and feel like you’ve done something good, but it’s another thing to have someone else recognize that. We’re just beside ourselves with happiness about this.”

Seeding Your Future hosted its first conference in 2014 with an aim of helping middle school-age girls explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The program expanded to include a series of workshops during the school year for high school students of any gender.

Murphy currently runs Seeding Your Future with Kay Dartt, clinical assistant professor of art; Dr. Jacquelyn Cole, chair, Department of Chemistry; and Dr. Cecilia Melton, assistant professor of environmental studies. With the addition of an arts component, Seeding Your Future has become a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) program.

Murphy said she helped start Seeding Your Future because when she was in middle school, she was able to attend a program at a college that allowed her to explore science outside the normal classroom experience and saw this as a way to pay it forward.

“Having had these experiences when I was growing up and not having them available here in this area inspired me to start the program for girls interested in STEM,” she said. “The research has shown that middle school is when girls lose faith or interest in STEM and their ability to do STEM. If I can recruit just one more girl into a STEM field, that’s amazing.”

From 2014-2019, 488 middle-school girls attended the annual Seeding Your Future Conference. Murphy said the first six years saw a positive shift from some interest in a STEM career to super interested as documented in participant responses to this question on pre- and post-conference surveys.

“The program is just now starting to see the outcome of young women having prolonged exposure of STEAM engagement on middle school girls as they are applying for programs in higher education institutions,” Murphy said.

“Seeding Your Future is introducing young women to the intricacies and joys of science that they might not get elsewhere,” said Dr. Robert Warburton, dean, College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Inspiring Programs in STEM Award winners were selected by INSIGHT Into Diversity based on efforts to inspire and encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research, and successful programs and initiatives.

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship for underrepresented students,” says Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor the schools and organizations that have created programs that inspire and encourage young people who may currently be in or are interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”

The next Seeding Your Future Conference is scheduled for Saturday, October 9, and will be either in-person or virtual based on Shepherd University safety policies at the time.

Audio of Dr. Sytil Murphy is available here.

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