Nearly 40 Black students from high schools in the Greater Toronto Area have been taking part in an outreach program, called Pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The program offers workshops provided by science departments in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science, including the Department of Statistical Sciences.
Assistant Professor Liza Bolton and PhD student Nnenna Asidianya hosted a statistical sciences workshop that explored the basic question: “What is statistics?” Participating students went on to look at examples of statistical sciences in everyday life, including algorithms that determine which content and ads are shown to specific online users.
“I think it’s very important for the students to see a face that’s similar to their own,” says Nnenna Asidianya, a Pursue STEM instructor and PhD student in the department of statistical sciences. “It’s important to hear from people who look like you that you can do this – that it's possible.
“Even as an undergraduate, I was always the only Black student,” says Asidianya. “I often had to motivate myself and tell myself, ‘I can do this.’ So, it's important for students to see a Black scientist, a Black statistician or a Black mathematician, and get encouragement from them.”
Pursue STEM began in March and will run until August. Online workshops cover a diversity of topics, including statistical sciences, artificial intelligence, programming languages, number theory, vulcanism and other geological processes, spectroscopes and more.
With the success of Pursue STEM, organizers are discussing how to make it an ongoing program. A sustained effort will enable support for new students as well as the current cohort as they move through Grade 11 and 12 – possibly even offering Grade 12 students a dedicated university credit course.
Black high school students explore STEM fields via U of T program
By Chris Sasaki
Nearly 40 Black students from high schools in the Greater Toronto Area have been taking part in science workshops provided by science departments in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science.
The outreach program, called Pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), began in March and will run until August. The online workshops cover a diversity of topics, including artificial intelligence, programming languages, number theory, vulcanism and other geological processes, spectroscopes and more.
It was developed through a partnership between the department of physics, U of T’s Office of Student Recruitment and the Lifelong Leadership Institute’s Leadership by Design program.
“I’d like to pursue a career in research or academia, possibly in pure mathematics,” says Tate Chin, a Pursue STEM student attending St. Augustine Catholic High School. “The program is definitely helping me towards that goal.
“It’s offered me a lot of exposure to university students and professors, which has provided me with an idea of what it’s like to do research.”
U of T departments participating in the initiative include: physics, astronomy, chemistry, computer science, Earth sciences, mathematics, statistical sciences and the School of the Environment.=
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