Q&A with Megan Madamba, Program Coordinator
Why did you decide to join Washington STEM?
I was so drawn to the mission of Washington STEM because it weaves my own interests and values of education, STEM, and equity together. Being able to lend my background in science and equity has been in the forefront of my mind. When I found Washington STEM, an organization solely focused on those same values, it was like, how do I sign up? How do I be part of that? I’ve worked for lots of nonprofits and I love the idea of giving back and serving my community – being at Washington STEM allows me to hold those values while still doing that good work.
What does equity in STEM education and career mean to you?
It’s tough for people who identify differently than the norm to be in spaces that they weren’t traditionally in. There’s a huge importance and benefit to having historically underrepresented voices and perspectives in STEM – equity invites more perspective, more choices, more creativity, more opportunity.
And that’s why you have organizations like Washington STEM breaking down those education barriers and providing that access to students – especially students of color, rural students, low-income students, and girls and young women. It feels good to see that outpouring of work in the world.
Why did you choose your career?
I like to say my career chose me. I’ve always been in the nonprofit sphere – primarily for sustainability and conservation-focused organizations where outreach, education, and restoration were my main focuses. Being able to put my STEM and education background out and into the community is what drives me. My career has never been about fame or money or anything like that – it’s about making sure that people like me are able to thrive in this world.
Can you tell us more about your education and career path?
I initially wanted to be a teacher, but I decided to get a degree in environmental science because – like many people – I care about the planet and want to make sure that we can protect it. My education and career during and after my time at Western Washington University revolved around salmon. From estuary monitoring to community outreach to teaching over 1,000 fourth grade students, connecting people to the natural environment was at my core. Over the years, the scope of my work widened to include more of what our relationship is to our environment or community and how does that relationship look like through equitable and diverse lenses.
During my studies at Western and in my environmental fields, there were not a lot of people like me, and so to now shift into a position where I help remove barriers for students is gratifying. Whether it’s income, race, gender – those aren’t things that students should have to worry about. I already did that worrying!
What inspires you?
Connection inspires me. Having a very science-y background, I often think about how ecology is a study of connection. Any connection that we have can be built upon, can be played with, and can inspire what’s next. There’s such a beauty in that – and that can be connections between people, connections between the environment and people, salmon and their habitat, maybe even connections between rocks. (I can totally find a connection between rocks). The draw to connection really opens up so many imaginable and beyond imaginable possibilities.
What are some of your favorite things about Washington state?
It’s such a beautiful place – not just western Washington (where I live), but eastern Washington too. The variety of landscapes and ecosystems as well as the biodiversity that we have here is so fascinating and splendid to me. We really do live in such a unique place that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. I have so much gratitude for the sheer amount of beauty that this place has.
What’s one thing about you that people can’t find out through the internet?
I’d have to say, something you can’t find on the internet is that my favorite food is spam musubi. I think I make a mean spam musubi. Growing up in Hawaii it was such a staple, but it also means a lot to me because it reminds me of family, my childhood, and provides comfort – plus it’s delicious.