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Mentors &
Role Models

Women of Color in STEM, Iowa Spotlight 

If you can see it, you can be it! We know representation matters. This series is dedicated to spotlighting amazing Iowa women of color who are shaping our state with their contributions in STEM careers. These innovative women of color are paving the way for generations to come. The Iowa Afterschool Alliance, through our work with Million Girls Moonshot, has a mission to engage girls to re-imagine who can build, who can make, and who will change the world of STEM. Keep reading to learn more about these Iowans we think you should know!  

Dr. Kimberly Wayne, EdD

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Dr. Kimberly Wayne is the founder and executive director of Jewels Academy. With a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University, a Master’s of Business Administration from Iowa University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Drake University, Dr. Wayne founded Jewels Academy in 2012. With her vast knowledge and experience in science and education, Dr. Wayne was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Iowa State Board of Education where she served for three years. After starting her career working for 3M in Knoxville, IA, and being mentored by the Vice President, Dr. Wayne became passionate about the power of mentorship. She has made it her personal mission to empower youth through education and self-development.

The Iowa Afterschool Alliance had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Wayne to ask her some questions about her life, her research, her passion for STEM, and the education of young people in Iowa. 

Interviewer: What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Dr. Wayne: A Plant Manager. I wasn’t sure what that was, but I believed it was the highest rank. I learned quickly, in my first job at 3M in Knoxville, that the Vice President went around the world to different manufacturing facilities. He was the very first African American vice president of 3M. He became a mentor to me. That was where I learned the different structures of the different organizations. 

Interviewer: In your research; Keeping Them in the STEM Pipeline: A Phenomenology Exploring the Experiences of Young Women and Underrepresented Minorities in a Long-Term STEM Enrichment Program, I was especially drawn to the theme of mentors being seen as heroes by students. Could you tell me a bit about the Jewels Academy mentors and the relationships they have with the students and why they are so important? 

 

Dr. Wayne:I think what we see in the industry and what’s proven time and time again in research is the impact of mentors. We have our young professional mentors, we have our community mentors and we have peers – those mentors that are very close in age, we call them peer mentors. We’ve been on the Jewels Academy journey for ten years, and we encourage the mentors to make a deep connection and continue the relationship in a big brother or big sister way. We looked at what we could do throughout the year to keep them connected to their mentor and keep them in the pipeline. All of the young women in my study had some type of mentorship, in some cases a person that they would see time and time again in the afterschool environment. In one instance the mentor was a peer, less than five years older than the students – and the students were in awe of that. When the young woman came back to their program after graduating college, she spoke to the (high school) student, sharing what she was doing for a job, how much money she made, and her experience… immediately the high school student said “that’s what I want to be”.  So having that continued exposure is proven to be fruitful. 

Interviewer: You’ve done so many things, Dr. Wayne; tech consultant, Iowa State Board of Education, and founder and executive director of Jewels Academy. What has been your favorite position so far? 

Dr. Wayne: I was sitting with my own mentor last week and we were talking about all the balls that I’m juggling and how to keep life balanced. Sometimes the things we do for passion may not yield a monetary reward. But it is the right thing to do to give back and serve others. If I look at my career as an engineer, as an engineering manager, etc., and then look at my service? I would say of everything else Jewels Academy is the one that is a passion. I’ll do it for little or nothing. Those are the reasons I’ll stay up late at night, and my team is like that you know? It may be Sunday at 9 pm and I’ll send them an email and they will quickly respond. Because they all have that love and that passion. And it’s hard sometimes to find people who have that same drive. So I would say it’s Jewels Academy. To see these students grow up and develop, and then come back and give back to their communities. It’s really important. 

Interviewer: What words of advice would you give to a young person in Iowa who is interested in STEM but may not have access to programs such as Jewels Academy? 

Dr. Wayne: Well now that we’re virtual I’d tell them to look us up on Jewels Academy dot com. Many of our programs are virtual. And what I do know is that they can go to their local higher education institution, such as a community college or university in your area. Even if you’re not sure you’re interested, just do it. It’s a success even if you find it’s what you don’t want to do. I would say, try everything! We do need STEM. Right now half of my team is in another country, and it’s because we don’t have enough engineers, technical staff, and support staff. We call it ‘tech deficit’.  It’s really important to start early because then you can be very intentional. So when it’s time to go into STEM studies you can actually start getting college credits in high school. Then you can start job shadowing and internships. It’s very important to be inquisitive and explore all the opportunities you can. And those experiences, good and bad, are excellent because you find out what you like and what you don’t like.