KENTFIELD/NOVATO, CA—Two College of Marin (COM) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Learning Community students were accepted into a highly selective three-day conference that aims to promote diversity in physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).
This month, COM students Dawne Abdul Al-Bari and Isela Sosa will attend the American Physical Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) at UCSC, where they will be able to learn about how to further their careers in STEM fields. They will also have the opportunity to participate in workshops about racial and gender diversity; visit breakout sessions; and network with other students, STEM professionals, and scientists.
Abdul Al-Bari said she was quite honored to be selected for the CUWiP conference and noted that COM has thoroughly supported her academic journey.
"COM has been instrumental in affirming my wishes to be the best that I can be at whatever I chose to pursue," Abdul Al-Bari said. "The community, the inclusive attitudes and the resources devoted to students at pennies on the dollar are well worth the time invested in developing a well-balanced foundation in both the arts and sciences."
Sosa, an immigrant from El Salvador, said COM instilled in her the belief that she could go to college and better her life for herself and her children.
"When I was in my country, I did not want to go to school because I believed that I was a bad student," she said. "At COM, I'm discovering that I'm actually a good student, and I can still dream for a better future even though I'm not in my 20s anymore, and I have kids I need to provide for."
Dr. Paul Daubenmire, COM chemistry professor and STEM Learning Community director, said both Sosa and Abdul Al-Bari are well-deserving of this opportunity.
"Dawne and Isela are excellent examples of women in science who might not have had an opportunity to participate in this conference in the past," Daubenmire said. "Neither are true physics majors, but both study in fields where their knowledge of physics is crucial. They each have faced societal hurdles in making progress towards their educational goals. But I had a strong sense that the opportunity to interface with other female scientists at this conference would strengthen their resolve to pursue their academic and career goals."
COM prioritizes improving educational equity within its student body, particularly in STEM fields. The College has encouraged students from its learning communities, including Puente Project and Umoja, which aim to promote academic success for underrepresented groups, raise awareness of opportunities like the CUWiP conference, and support them in getting involved.
Daubenmire said he hopes that Sosa's and Abdul Al-Bari's successes will encourage other young women and minorities to reach for opportunities they might not otherwise have.
"Each of them had a particular limitation placed upon them by society, but neither of them let that become a barrier to hold them back. Rather, they both shared authentic stories of their life journeys with me; both of them recognize the value of putting in effort in the pursuit of their educational goals," he said. "I'm confident that their stories will inspire others who are in similar shoes as them. I know from experience that a chance encounter or timely opportunity can positively alter and accelerate the trajectory of a highly motivated student. Dawne and Isela are both making the kind of progress that will encourage others forward!"