MVSU to Host 26th Annual Constance G. Bland Women In Science & Technology Conference

March 27, 2024

According to research by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women comprise only 34 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The gender gaps are exceptionally high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.

Due to this trend, on Thursday, March 28, 2024, The Mathematics, Computer, and Information Sciences (MCIS) Department at MVSU will host the 26th Annual Constance G. Bland Women in Science and Technology (WIST) Conference. The conference welcomes middle and high school young women and aims to show students that STEM careers are exciting, attainable, and rewarding.

In addition, the event aims to enhance understanding of STEM fields and promote awareness of MVSU. The WIST Organization is a student-led organization that advocates for women in science and technology. This organization is comprised of college female students majoring in STEM disciplines. These students are committed and devoted to making a difference in the scientific community and are instrumental in organizing and staffing the conference. 

Dr. Latonya Garner-Jackson, MCIS department chair, expressed her excitement about this year’s event. “This event will expose young females to successful women in the fields of STEM such as Physician Assistants, Computer Scientists, Community Partnership Directors, Nursing, Biologists, Mathematicians, System Managers, Chiropractors, Wildlife, Chemists, and others,” Garner-Jackson explained.

The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the William W. Sutton Administration Building's Claude G. Perkins Auditorium and conclude with a luncheon in the R.W. Harrison Sports Complex. This year's conference theme is “Uplifting Women and Building the Next Generation in STEM.”

The Keynote Speaker for this celebration is Dr. Edrika Thigpen, a regional math consultant for the Tennessee Department of Education. She is a native of Drew and an alumna of Drew High School and Mississippi Valley State University.

Thigpen holds MVSU near to her heart. Her choice to further her education at Valley was influenced by the experiences of her family members and numerous former teachers who spoke highly of their time at MVSU, which profoundly impacted their lives and helped shape them into the individuals they became.

“These women were sources of inspiration and admiration for me. Motivated by their stories, I embarked on a similar journey to explore the beauty of MVSU firsthand,” said Thigpen.

“With the support of a full academic scholarship, I earned my bachelor's degree at Valley. With aspirations of becoming a teacher, I majored in Mathematics Education in the MCIS Department. I furthered my education at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark., where I received an Ed.S. and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership,” she added.

Thigpen is a passionate educator with experience managing adult learners and balancing multiple roles within schools to promote an effective instructional program. She seeks to develop her leadership skills and expertise further to reform schools' educational programs, reduce achievement gaps in low-income areas, and improve teacher effectiveness as measured by school-wide outcomes and student achievement.

Thigpen has served in several roles since graduating from MVSU. Her experience includes serving as a Mathematics/Science Instructional Coach, a Mathematics Interventionist, and a Mathematics Facilitator.

She is currently employed as a Regional Math Consultant for the Tennessee Department of Education, where she serves as a subject matter expert on state standards and priority academic initiatives for local education agencies (LEAs). She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She resides in Memphis, Tenn., with her kids, Laiyah and Jordan.

The presenters for this conference include:

Karolyn Bridges-Jordan (MVSU Graduate) is the Mississippi Department Of Child Protection Services system manager in Jackson, MS.

Jacquelyn R. German is the community Partnership Director for the NIH-funded Jackson Heart Study Community Engagement Center at the Mississippi State Department of Health in Jackson, MS.

Glenda Hargrove is a registered nurse care coordinator at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur, GA.

Jackie Henne-Kerr is a conservation resource biologist for the MS Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, MS; Dr. Erin Jacobs is a chiropractor in Greenwood, MS.

Dr. Bhanu Priya Viraka Nellore, Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the Natural Science/Environment Health Department at MVSU.

Sabrina Perry (MVSU Graduate), Instructor of Engineering Technology in the Engineering Technology Department at MVSU.

Dr. Hattie Spencer, Professor of Environmental Health in the Natural Science/Environment Health Department at MVSU.

Hilliary Spivey (MVSU Graduate), Physician Assistant at Next Level Urgent Care in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Candace Stevens, Assistant Professor of Mathematics in the Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences Department at MVSU.

The Women In Science and Technology (WIST) Organization strives to empower young women to pursue their unique interests. Garner-Jackson said, "We hope that the female students attending our conference develop a more valuable appreciation for STEM fields and become more interested in MVSU."