Meet Cynthia White: From Engineer to STEM Education ReformerSeptember 05, 2012
AAUW has always been an ardent supporter of increasing the presence of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This goal is mirrored by many of the projects that AAUW Community Action Grants fund. Grantee Cynthia White’s work is no exception.
White’s 2008–09 Community Action Grant provided the initial funding for Arhythmetic Jukebox. As described in a 2009 Project Profile blog post, the jukebox aims to develop a collection of pop, hip-hop, and rap songs that emphasize selected math concepts. The Arhythmetic Jukebox focuses on how people remember music and employs musical beats to appeal to the interests of students, especially Hispanic and African American young women, and to create a heightened curiosity in STEM.
White has continued to work on this project in addition to other roles in education. Most recently, she worked as a consultant and School Improvement Grant monitor with Partners for America’s Classrooms. She hopes that her organization can become instrumental in education by connecting individuals and companies that work in STEM fields with educators to help design practical curricula. The goal of these partnerships is to facilitate the opportunity for teachers to use useful instruments, such as Common Core State Standards, to bridge the achievement gaps that exist in math and science classrooms.
Education is White’s second STEM-related career. She worked as an engineer and software developer in the corporate world before realizing there was a void in her life that her job was not filling. Driven by a desire to make a larger impact in her community, White transitioned into education at age 32. She began by teaching high school math and later became an instructional math coach. White also recently started her own education consulting nonprofit. She also works with the Michigan Department of Education to monitor and to ensure accountability and effective program implementation in persistently low-achieving schools in Detroit. As a self-described “school-improvement guru,” White has employed her corporate, nonprofit, and educational backgrounds to become an integral part of the community improvement process for her hometown of Detroit.
All in all, it is White’s objective to have a positive effect on others and to improve our education system through her work. She recalls that receiving her Community Action Grant shifted her perspective on reality due to its community-oriented requirements. “They are a nontraditional opportunity that is rare and unique,” she says. White reiterates the common message behind her various projects and reminds us that “things are possible! We hear it all the time, but you really can do what you want to do. You can make it happen!”
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Bianca Zhang.