Hi! Stephanie Rodriguez here, the new Director of STEM Policy at the Afterschool Alliance. I’m incredibly excited to advocate for the importance of out-of-school time STEM learning and its role in encouraging students to engage in and pursue activities and careers in STEM fields. My personal, lived experience with informal STEM learning experiences fuels my passion for afterschool STEM and brought me to the Afterschool Alliance, where I will work to impact policies that support opportunities for all youth to engage with STEM learning.
I join the Afterschool Alliance fresh off my tenure as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation, where I worked on efforts to broaden participation in computer science and other STEM fields. Prior to the fellowship, I completed my PhD in immunology at Washington University in St. Louis where I studied the T-cell development process and devised innovative strategies to watch this phenomenon in live animals in real time using advanced microscopy techniques. While at WashU I also directed the Young Scientist Program, a 25-year-old program that engages St. Louis public school teachers and students in hands-on STEM experiences while providing critical resources to a community in need.
My own path to becoming a scientist was 100% paved by STEM experiences external to the classroom. In high school, I was part of an authentic research experience working at a Ball State University biochemistry lab through a program aimed at getting girls and underrepresented groups into STEM fields. The experience got me hooked on STEM, built my resume, connected me with mentors, and expanded my human capital and network. If not for that invaluable experience, I would not have been exposed to the STEM research enterprise nor had the confidence and interest to consider a career in a STEM field.
Afterschool STEM engagement is an opportunity all students should have access to and I am eager to jump into my new role and support policies that will make that happen!