In February, WorldChicago welcomed six women from Botswana, China, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, and Poland for the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. Their aim was to study the evolution and advancement of U.S. women in various STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The delegation traveled to Washington D.C., New York City, Austin, Minneapolis, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago over their three-week exchange.
In Chicago, a sure highlight was hearing from Colonel Jill Morganthaler about her experience working in a field dominated by men. The delegates found this talk to be inspirational. Col. Morganthaler had wise, useful advice to the delegates on how to develop their leadership skills as women in their fields. One delegate has even contacted her ambassador to see if she can have the Colonel come to their speaker series.
The delegation also had lunch with the Illinois Institute of Technology Society of Women Engineers chapter, a high point as the group had the opportunity to dialogue with students pursuing STEM careers as well. As the delegates’ liaison reported, “Following a more formal talk, the delegates and IIT students mingled and conversations were just a-buzz around the room — in several different languages, including Spanish and Hebrew!”
Following the lunch, the group met with the University of Chicago’s School Mathematics Project and learned how a research university can play a role in changing curriculum and policy across the country.
Their last meeting was a tour of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s oldest and largest national laboratories for science and engineering research. During their tour the delegates were able to see the supercomputer, learn about transportation research and biosciences, and have a discussion with women working in tech at Argonne. The facilities were “out of this world” according to the delegate from Botswana, and many resources were shared about how the visitors can use and get involved with the lab in the future.
In addition to professional meetings, the delegation also engaged with the broader Chicago community. They were the featured speakers at a WorldChicago Coffee Conversation, where they discussed their work as well as their impressions of Chicago and the U.S. After three weeks of traveling and staying in hotels, home hospitality — having dinner at the homes of WorldChicago members — was a welcome and enriching highlight.
— Ann Szeliga, WorldChicago