While statistics continue to point to a disparity in the number of women in STEM-related professions—the National Science Foundation reports that in 2021 only one-third of women are employed in STEM occupations1—Notre Dame Preparatory School is aggressively working to change this trend.
In the 2022-23 academic year, the Class of 2023, including those introduced to the school’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) program in grade six when the Middle Level Innovation Lab was unveiled in 2017, saw the most STEAM Certificate and STEAM Pathway recipients to date. In total, 49 percent of the Class earned general STEAM Certificates. In addition, of that number, 26 students received STEAM Pathway Certificates in Medicine; 16 in Computer Science; 10 in Engineering and Manufacturing; and nine in Architecture. All told, more than 135 recognitions were awarded. Most notably, one graduate, Kaye Tubal ’23, earned three of these specialized pathways.
Notre Dame Prep introduces students to STEAM-related courses of study as early as the Middle Level, taking the students on a seven-year journey of discovery right up to their final days at NDP when they engage in college prep and career planning. “The feedback we hear from students who pursue STEAM degrees relates directly to the opportunities provided in the STEAM curriculum and the learning experiences that are part of WIN (Women In… internships),” explains Mary Agnes Sheridan, Director of STEAM at NDP.
NDP’s STEAM program is intentionally designed to allow student interest, rather than a prescriptive curriculum, to guide the course of study. Often students combine seemingly disparate studies, such as coding, interior design, anatomy, and drawing, demonstrating the breadth and diversity of course offerings in NDP’s STEAM program. Seeing NDP graduates continue pursuing their interest in STEAM at the college level is especially rewarding to Sheridan, whose own daughter, Emily ’20, is pursuing her interest in both Computer Science and Dance as a senior at the University of Maryland in College Park.
“STEAM is not one-dimensional. It allows students to be multi-dimensional and explore interests and combine them in a way that allows them to be creative,” says Sheridan. “It helps them when they are pursuing degrees and careers.”
Sheridan sees how, for many, STEAM is a jumping off point for greater service. She tells of one NDP alum who received a degree in Mechanical Engineering before electing to do a year of service after graduation.
“We want our students to realize that choosing to work in a STEAM-related field no longer means working alone in a lab,” says Sheridan. “Having real-world experiences that allow them to see how their work impacts others and can help transform the world for the better is what an NDP education is all about. Students can make a difference; it’s how they apply themselves and chart their path.”
1 Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation, Alexandria, VA | NSF 23-15 | January 30, 2023