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CSUCI’s Sandy Birmingham Honored as ‘Leading Woman in STEM’

Sandy Birmingham, a STEM pipeline and outreach coordinator for Project ACCESO at CSU Channel Islands, has been named a “Leading Woman in STEM” for her work to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Birmingham was one of 12 California women honored at the 2012 California STEM Summit held Oct. 16 in San Diego.

The award, presented by the nonprofit California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet), recognizes “achievements in advancing innovative and effective STEM education initiatives across the state and serving as exemplary role models for California women and girls.”

The organization honored Birmingham for her work creating high-quality, hands-on after-school STEM programs. As pipeline and outreach coordinator at CI’s Project ACCESO, she works with area K-12 schools, community colleges, CI faculty and undergraduates, and employers on programs and partnerships to excite students about STEM learning and careers.

“It’s not just an interest to me. It’s a national priority,” she said. “STEM yields innovation and the careers of the future.”

Birmingham has been a history teacher, a Spanish teacher, and more recently served as a program director for Moving Beyond the Bell Afterschool Programs, where she was honored for helping structure innovative after-school STEM programs in the Sierra Sands Unified School District, partnering with the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and other local employers.

The “Leading Woman” recognition took Birmingham by surprise. She shared the honor with 11 other prominent women from across the state, including a California assemblywoman, a National Science Foundation grant-awarded physicist, the chancellor of UC Davis, and Dr. Joan Bissell, director of teacher education and public school programs for the CSU system.

“I was so humbled to be standing alongside these accomplished women,” Birmingham said. “To share that honor with them was a huge highlight in my career.”

CSLNet created the “Leading Women in STEM” awards to help highlight the dramatic need to increase the number of women in STEM fields and recognize women leaders who are making a difference.  Currently, only 25 percent of STEM jobs in the United States are held by women.

At CI, Birmingham works with Project ACCESO Director Professor Phil Hampton on multiple initiatives that stimulate interest in STEM learning and careers among students in kindergarten through college. In addition to developing after-school programs, she coaches CI students on how to create and execute project-based lesson plans; oversees mentoring programs; helps organize the Science Carnival, school science nights and other community events; and reaches out to create new partnerships with regional schools and employers.

Birmingham serves as a member of the California After School Network’s Leadership Team, STEM Committee and Nominating Committee, and as an ambassador emeritus for the Afterschool Alliance. She graduated from UC Los Angeles with a bachelor of arts in history and a master of arts in Education from Azusa Pacific University as well as a teaching credential.

In addition to receiving her award at the STEM Summit, Birmingham and a former colleague gave a presentation on systematic approaches to making STEM partnerships successful.

She gave her award — an engraved glass statue — to her father.

“My dad raised me and worked three jobs so I could get an education and go to college,” she said. “Any time I have the opportunity, I want to honor him.”

— Nancy Gill is the director of communication and marketing for CSU Channel Islands.

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