Meteorologist Alex Wilson believes in the power of STEM and how much it can benefit one person’s career path, even if they go into a branch that isn’t STEM related. Hear her take on the importance of STEM and what advice she has to students in school.
In a nutshell, why do you think STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is important for people to care about?
STEM is something that’s deeply woven within our lives – no matter what you do on a day-to-day basis, you’re going to be involved with STEM. Science encompasses the basics of our life – hello, weather! Technology pretty much runs our being now – can you think of a day without your cell phone or computer?! Engineering is key in understanding how our tools (cars, computers, etc) work — and whether or not you like math, you’ll end up using it most days (leaving a tip at a restaurant, doing household bills, etc). So these aren’t concepts or subjects that you can leave by the wayside and “not deal with,” so to speak.
What sparked your interest in STEM when you were in college?
It’s funny, I never saw myself as a “sciencey” person – probably because when I was growing up, there were either direct or subtle references to math and science courses being “for boys.” Also, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, so I thought “I don’t need math, I’m going to be writing!” As I said before, I now understand that regardless of your career, you’re going to at least encounter STEM concepts in your day-to-day and/or professional life, so it’s great to be familiar. And I can’t go without saying that The Weather Channel helped to ignite that interest in science — I found myself watching all the time and fascinated with the “why.”
What are common misconceptions about STEM majors?
Statements like “STEM is for boys.”, “It’s not good for creative people.”, and “STEM is boring” hit it on the head! I was always told or thought that STEM classes were “for the boys.” I think creative people find STEM so dry and removed from what they do – but it really isn’t. Say you’re an artist – well, you’re still going to be dealing with STEM in your job. For example, you’ll need a website for your art (technology/engineering) and you’ll be doing your own finances for your business (math). And I think that old thinking that everyone in STEM is “boring” or “nerdy” is a thing of the past — nowadays I can tell you that isn’t the case!
What would you say to people who are on the fence about choosing a college major that involves STEM?
Before you make any decision, at least take a class or two in the STEM field. I don’t think you can fairly rule something out or call it “not for you” until you give it a try. It’s amazing what you’ll learn about yourself and your passions when you’re exposed to something different, or even uncomfortable. Plus, by taking at least a few of these classes, you’ll be making yourself a more well-rounded person, and more of an asset to future employers or your family.
Even if you’re not in school for STEM, how would someone benefit from taking STEM-related courses?
As I’ve mentioned, you’re going to encounter STEM in your life, so why not make yourself a little more educated about these subjects? You may be responsible for the finances in your home, so math coursework is only going to make you stronger. Engineering and technology skills are always in demand — even if it’s something as simple as being the person at work or home who can fix technology issues! And the entire world around us relates to science, so you’d only be making yourself more informed!
What can you get out of STEM courses that’s different from what you learn in other courses?
I’m not going to lie, STEM courses can be much different than other courses. At first, I was so uncomfortable because not everything is easy or cut and dry. It isn’t always about knowing the answer quickly – in many cases it is about applying your knowledge to solve problems. That can be much different than what you’d encounter in a non-science class.
How can coursework in STEM help students when they start working in the real world?
I think that problem-solving is one of the main takeaways of a STEM course. Because these courses teach you how to apply your knowledge rather than recite a memorized answer, it gives you a completely different skill set that makes you an effective employee and team member.
You have three degrees- one in meteorology, one in marketing, and one in broadcast journalism. Have you ever applied what you learned with one major to the other?
Of course! Meteorology helps me understand the story I’m telling, while the broadcast journalism and marketing education help me determine how to best tell the story. Of course, all the STEM coursework I encountered in these majors also help in all sorts of day-to-day activities!