3Mers Dr. Cristina Thomas, global R&D services director, and Jackie Berry, 3Mgives global communications manager, have a combined 50+ years of dedication and passion for bringing science to life. Above all else, the two share excitement for their recent work together to create 5 million STEM and skilled trade learning experiences for Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino and underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025. This goal was born out of 3M’s overall commitment to creating greater equity in its communities, business practices and workplaces.
“We know that in order to really excel and to be interested in STEM, sometimes you have to have more than just one experience,” said Jackie. “What we're trying to do in 3Mgives is create as many STEM learning experiences as possible so that students can find their way and find space where they're really interested in STEM and hopefully end up pursuing it.”
The experiences behind 3M’s new goal include scholarships, internships and robust student services, various experiential learning opportunities, 3Mgives monetary investments, and volunteerism.
As a volunteer, Cristina says she felt a big responsibility to contribute to society. “I’ve been given the opportunity to have a wonderful career,” Cristina said. “My experience has really equipped me to be a skilled scientist and now I can be role model for others through the Visiting Wizards program at 3M.”
“I think it’s so important to get these stories out to students,” Jackie added. “To have students hear from people like Cristina who can tell them ‘This is what it takes to be a scientist or an engineer and this was my pathway,’ and have her stand in front of students to show them the possibilities and the opportunities is so incredibly important.”
Cristina and Jackie partnered up through Visiting Wizards, one 3M’s many science encouragement programs. The effort brings scientists into kindergarten through 6th grade classes to introduce and demonstrate science concepts. It also shows kids that scientists can come from all different backgrounds. Through these programs and volunteers like Cristina, the goal to create 5 million learning experiences for underrepresented students all over the world has become a real possibility.
“We can’t do that without the help of our scientists. We invest in organizations and support STEM initiatives, but it’s our volunteers,” Jackie said. “It’s getting our people into classrooms and in front of students to really show them what science can do, and that they can do science too, because we have [3Mers] from all backgrounds who look like all of the students.”
Having someone who is representative of students in the classroom has been imperative to making a difference for students. Cristina hopes to be that person for others.
“I think it’s important to be a role model that some of us had growing up, but some of us never had one and missed opportunities to contribute in a different way. I was in a second-grade class doing a 3M Visiting Wizard hands-on demonstration when, almost at the end of the visit, one girl pulled my clothes and said, ‘I want to be a scientist.’ That made my day, made my week, and still fills me with joy today.”
Programs like these have a proven track record of making a difference and that’s the reason 3M has decided to invest more in this area. For example, one of 3M’s current division scientists Audrey Sherman was a high school student participant in STEP, a 3M-sponsored program. She not only ended up in a science career at 3M, but she has chosen to now give back as a 3M Visiting Wizard.
“We love those stories,” Jackie said. “We’re trying to make the connections between STEM and students and when you see a story like that, you realize that there are opportunities out there and we can help make those connections.”
The grassroots movement of this goal has reached 3M facilities in Korea, Australia, and France, among others, who are designing programs to support STEM and skilled trades experiences. Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the experience-focused goal will be formally measured through the number of 3M-supported learning experiences in which individuals participate, including those pursuing credentials or degrees linked to family-sustaining job areas in STEM or skilled trades. Results will be reported publicly on an annual basis.
For more details on what 3M is doing to create greater equity in our workplaces, communities and business practices, visit 3M.com/equity.