MMSU to hold science camp for high school girls next year

By Daniel P. Tapaoan, Jr. 


The Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) has received another grant from the United States Department of State’s Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund (CDAF) to run an immersion science camp for underserved girls in Ilocos Norte next year.


With a $10,000 grant, the project dubbed ‘Girls STEM Camp with MMSU Women in Science’ will provide experiential classes, hands-on activities, and interactive opportunities to 50 girls from rural high schools in the province. 


The science camp, which will tackle science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, will be held at the MMSU National Bioenergy Research and Innovation Center (NBERIC) on February 13-19, 2022. 


The project is the brainchild of Dr. Fiorello Abenes, former US Senior Fulbright Fellow, Professor Emeritus at California State Polytechnic University (CalPoly)-Pomona, former MMSU Balik-Scientist, and a consultant to the National Bioenergy Research and Innovation Center (NBERIC), and Dr. Jan Rich A. Guira, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program (FLTA) alumnus and MMSU’s chief for student development. 


Dr. Abenes said the project primarily aims to address gender gap in STEM fields by investing in girls' education and providing them with the encouragement, community, and confidence to pursue careers in the said fields.


He added that participants are expected to increase their interest in science and to broaden their knowledge of science-related careers by the end of the camp. 


Dr. Guira said the participants will be identified by collaborating with the Department of Education (DepEd) principals and teachers in Ilocos Norte. He added they will also coordinate with local government units to ensure the project’s equity and inclusiveness. 


Dr. Shirley C. Agrupis, MMSU President and Postdoctoral Fulbright Alumnus at Kansas State University; and Dr. Aris Cajigal, Director for Extension and PhD Fulbright Foreign Student Program Alumnus at the University of Georgia, will serve as project collaborators, while women science professors at MMSU will be tapped as camp and study leaders. 


Dr. Agrupis hopes the project will create a community where young girls are educated and inspired through the hands-on activities they participate in, the STEM workplaces they see, and the successful Women Science Faculty they meet and interact at MMSU. 


In July 2021, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) invited U.S. alumni to apply for small grants of up to $10,000 as part of the CDAF funding opportunity. Exchange alumni submitted proposals to carry out public service projects that addressed challenges in communities across the United States and around the world in countries such as Burundi, China, Mexico, and the Philippines. Project themes included protecting the environment, promoting media literacy education, developing stronger exchange program alumni networks, bolstering outreach to underserved communities, and building community through arts, sports, language, and technology.


“Congratulations to the winners of the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund 2021 grant competition.” said Matthew Lussenhop, ECA’s Acting Assistant Secretary of State. “We are proud to support these exchange alumni as they implement their public service projects across the United States and throughout the world to address key issues such as environmental protection and diversity, equity, and inclusion. We look forward to seeing what these citizen diplomats achieve through these projects in the coming months.”


The Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented in partnership with the Partners of the Americas. 


Earlier this year, MMSU also received $10,000 grant from CDAF to train Ilocos Norte women on organic soap-making using locally available materials as a way of activating resiliency among communities against COVID-19. (StratCom)