Q&A with Isabelle Haines, Communications Coordinator
Why did you decide to join Washington STEM?
During my last semester of college, I was looking for a job that required lots of writing, involved STEM education, and had a positive impact in the world. I also hoped to find work in Washington, my beloved home state. Washington STEM was the needle in the job-hunt haystack!
Prior to joining Washington STEM, I had never worked on the systems level before. That challenge was exciting to me, and I decided to apply for the Communications Coordinator position. What really sealed the deal for me was meeting my future colleagues during the application process. I’m very lucky in that everyone I work with is someone I can learn from!
What do equity in STEM education and career mean to you?
To me, equity in STEM education and career means removing the material and social barriers that keep students from pursuing their STEM interests. A phrase I often hear people use self-disparagingly is “math person.” As in: “I’m not much of a math person.” Many people grow up believing that STEM subjects like math are not for them, an idea that is reflected in hostile or inaccessible learning and work environments. I want to work towards dismantling the idea of someone who does or doesn’t belong in a STEM field.
Why did you choose your career?
Although I’m not especially far into my career, I have always wanted to incorporate my two areas of study — math and English — into my work. STEM communication has been an excellent way to do just that. Washington STEM’s communications work has some pretty exciting challenges — it’s all about making the concept of systems-level change accessible to people who aren’t already immersed in that world. Not everyone has the time to do a deep dive on Washington state education policy, but everyone can understand why equity in STEM education is important.
Can you tell us more about your education/career path?
In college I studied math and English, two majors that don’t exactly go together. At first, I thought I would have to choose between those subjects in my career, but now I see my interdisciplinary background as a strength. My love of math and writing gave me a unique perspective and helped me find some very valuable professional opportunities. For example, I was lucky to intern with NASA during my senior year of college. Although I was a communications intern, my math background helped me write STEM activities for NASA’s educational resource library. In this way, an interdisciplinary education can be very useful!
What inspires you?
Libraries and librarians inspire me! I am so delighted that public libraries continue to serve their communities during these hard times. I remember a wave of think-pieces from the mid-2010s that wrote off libraries as irrelevant because of advances in technology. Nothing, I think, could be further from reality. Libraries help patrons with language learning, citizenship applications, genealogy research, job searches, and so much more. I truly could talk forever about how cool and necessary these spaces are.
When I was three years old and living in White Salmon, WA, the public librarian was named Jennifer. She had a preternatural ability to match library patrons with the perfect book. Jennifer instilled a love of reading in me before I even knew my alphabet. So much from those early years has fallen away from me, but I still remember her name. She is a great example of how influential libraries and librarians can be, on the personal level as well as the societal level.
What are some of your favorite things about Washington state?
There is so much to love about this magical place! A lightning round of my favorite Washington things would include hiking in the Olympics, swimming in the Puget Sound during the bioluminescence season, geoducking, and walking on a freezing, rocky beach in the middle of winter. I love Dick’s Drive-In and the Lost Lake Cafe and Southgate Roller Rink. And then, of course, there’s the rain and all the rain-based small talk, which I happily participate in.
What’s one thing about you people can’t find through the internet?
Perhaps it is wrong to brag, but I can make a pretty killer blackberry pie.