Pod of the Week - Storrs, CT

The Storrs Connecticut pod began only in January of this year, but in that short time they have developed a strong voice on the east coast, in their state and on media. Thanks to the whole team for taking time to tell us how they have been so successful in getting their pod off the ground, about their voter registration program, and how they ensure they can reach out to as many women as possible. A great example for how making a difference can e as easy as visiting the neighborhood farmers market. Keep up the great work ladies!

Location: Storrs, CT (covering eastern CT)

Number of women: 19 official members (more on info mailing lists and affiliates)

Frequency of meeting: 1/month

Mission statement: 500wsStorrsCT advocates for science-based legislation, promotes scientific literacy, and amplifies the voices of women in STEM

How did you come to this mission, why is it relevant to your city and state?

First, CT is a very academic state with UConn to the north and Yale to the south with many universities and colleges scattered between. We felt that the many STEM women in our state needed to be represented and encouraged to showcase their work. We also felt that the people of CT needed more allies fighting for better education and legislation. CT has a very high income gap (Gini coefficient of 0.4945) and, according to the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey, we have the 2nd highest level of income inequality in the country. Our economic issues are reflected in the K-12 school systems from town to town, can be seen in the stagnant opportunities for jobs and growth, and have caused many lower income residents to leave the state in recent years. We believe that empowering women and increasing STEM access will help CT fight against these negatives. On a national level, we need this effort more than ever as our legislators move away from science-based policy making and away from protecting marginalized groups. 

How have you grown your pod and ensured a diverse group of women scientists attend pod meetings?

Our pod is very active on social media. The first thing we did was appoint a Social Media Coordinator, Amanda Coletti, and she started all our accounts - twitter, snapchat, instagram, and facebook. Our department at UConn is very active in the scicomm world, so we were lucky to have many early retweets to get us started. We also recruit during voter registration drives held in northeastern CT towns and on the largest campus in the area, UConn, which has a very diverse population compared to the national average, including ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity. We’ve also made sure to encourage and elevate women of color in our group to leadership positions and are continuing to improve that effort. 

Can you talk about your past activities/successes, any favorites you want to share, and how they are important to your community?

Right now, our main push has been running nonpartisan voter registration drives in northeastern CT. We’ve teamed up with our local branch of the NAACP in Windham/Willimantic CT and have recently teamed up with the nonpartisan group UConnPIRG striving to engage students in the election and voting process. We’d especially like to highlight our drives at the Farmer’s Markets where we’ve been able to engage with our local communities of a few of our beautiful CT towns. We’ve had a number of positive connections and feel that we’re spreading our pro-science message to areas that may not have regular exposure to the awesome work we all do. We believe this effort is vital to CT and having an educated and engaged population will help shape our state into a strong, pro-science force in our nation.

What future plans does your pod have?

We’re in the process of planning our K-12 outreach events. We will be organizing Science Sessions with our local libraries to introduce kids to some of the well known and many unknown areas of science. The events we’re currently planning will use art as a tool to help kids understand a scientific concept, for example making paper by hand to understand plant fibers or using music to explain neurobiology concepts. We’re really excited to bring this to groups of kids to see how they engage and react to the modules. We’ll also be participating in the Women in STEM Wikipedia edit-a-thon and planning at least one day of research and editing to make sure that women scientists and their research are well represented. 

If you have a specific project you worked on we would love to hear about it, and tips to share with other new pods. 

Our pod has been very active both locally and in communiticating and participating with 500 Women Scientists national/international organization. We would like to reiterate that anyone who would like help with their voter registration efforts should contact us or the other pods working on this, such as the DC pod and the San Diego pod. We’re always happy to help in any way that we can. 

Meet the Pod Leaders: Co-coordinator: Dyanna Louyakis; Co-coordinator and Social Media Coordinator: Amanda Coletti; Vice-coordinator: Jill Therriault; Treasurer: Alexandria “Alix" Battison; Secretary: Dipanjan Dalui; Undergraduate Coordinator: Marlene Abouaassi