VICKSBURG, Miss.— Students from across the Vicksburg-Warren School District sent in questions and joined the conversation during the most recent segment of ERDC Live, a social media broadcast of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).
The theme of the episode, which aired on March 21, was “Women in Innovation: Leading a Better Tomorrow.” Panelists were ERDC Deputy Director Dr. Beth Fleming, ERDC Associate Director Pat Sullivan and ERDC Commander Col. Teresa Schlosser.
After brief introductions, panelists began fielding questions. One of the early questions came via video from Anaya Holt, a student at Warren Central High School in Vicksburg.
“We’re doing our best to make sure that kids across the board are still interested in science and that we don’t turn them off with too much technical bookwork,” Schlosser said in response to Holt’s question about how ERDC keeps young people engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “We don’t want them to think you have to have it right 100% of the time, in fact, with research and science, a lot of the time you want to get it wrong so you understand how it works. We want to keep engaging with young people and keep them coming out to our campuses to see our work.”
As the discussion went on, panelists also explained how ERDC has changed over the years when it comes to women in leadership.
“Thirty-one percent of our leaders at ERDC are female,” said Shelley Tingle of the ERDC Corporate Communications Office who hosted the live broadcast. “From Code 4 supervisors to senior scientific technical managers, project and program managers to our highest leadership levels. That is something for us to celebrate today.”
“It is so exciting, the change that I’ve seen,” Fleming said in agreement with Tingle. “At ERDC and across all of the STEM fields in terms of women and their participation, it has just been incredible.”
In addition to taking video questions from students, ERDC also hosted two seniors from Warren Central High School, Sarah Drinkard and Khania Minor, to come see the production of the broadcast in person.
“I really enjoyed it,” said Drinkhard, who plans to major in marketing after graduating high school this year. “I liked seeing how everything works together, the filming and how it all looks interactive.”
After the live broadcast ended, Drinkard and Minor were given the opportunity to chat with ERDC’s top female leadership—the panelists.
“I got to tell them about an experience I’ve had where I was the only female in a group full of men,” Minor said. “It was nice to share something like that with them. People like them inspire me to look into leadership opportunities.”
Toward the end of the segment, Sullivan encouraged young women like Minor to look into a career at ERDC, while reflecting on the opportunities she was given as an entry-level employee.
“We need diversity in thought; we need diversity in gender, diversity in ethnicity and different background sand cultural experiences, particularly at ERDC,” Sullivan said. “In order for us to be competitive and be innovative and creative and to have ingenuity, we’ve got to have that at the table.”