Zakiah N. Pierre
Name: Zakiah N. Pierre
Place of Employment: College for Every Student
Job Title: National STEM Director
Education: BS Chemical Engineering, Tuskegee University
PhD Chemistry, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Zakiah Pierre is the National STEM Director for College for Every Student (CFES). Her work with CFES helps raise the academic aspirations and performance of under-served youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to, and succeed in college in a STEM discipline. Dr. Pierre has a BS in Chemical Engineering and a PhD in Chemistry. Prior to completing her PhD, Dr. Pierre was selected as an Education Pioneers graduate fellow and served as a consultant for a DC charter school management organization. Education Pioneers is an organization dedicated to identifying and training a new generation of leaders focused on transforming the nation’s educational system so that all students receive a quality education. Dr. Pierre believes that a quality education is a great equalizer and intends to use real-world STEM as a vehicle to spark an excitement for learning in our future generations. Dr. Pierre was a Girl Scout within the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital (GSCNC) from a Brownie through Senior and earned her Gold Award in 1998. Her Girl Scout experiences shaped her desire to choose STEM as a career. Not only is it an intriguing field but it offers many ways to give back to her community. In addition to serving as a chemistry instructor at UIUC, and a researcher for a non-profit K-12 STEM philanthropy, she has also co-founded a Science Day Camp for middle and high school aged girls in Central Illinois.
What is the greatest challenge you’ve encountered during your career in STEM?
The greatest challenge I have faced during my career in STEM is solving a problem that has many possible solutions but having to choose the best solution for all stakeholders. Unlike simple math problems where you know 2+2 equals 4, these problems are not as straight forward and require lots of research, teamwork and calculations to arrive at a solution. Although its a challenge, its what really keeps the job interesting. There is always a problem to be solved.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about having a career in STEM?
The most exciting things about a career in STEM is the job potential. There are so many options in STEM. People usually think of engineering, medical doctor, or scientist, but there are so many other career options. For example, I have a chemistry background but I currently am using the knowledge and the skills I obtained to develop programs for our future generations to be successful in STEM. The skills you obtain in STEM careers are completely transferable and make you marketable in just about any industry. Consider this: A background in chemistry comes in handy when designing fashionable clothes that don't wrinkle or are completely resistant to stains.
If you could give one piece of advice to a girl who is considering doing a Silver or Gold Award based on STEM or pursuing a career in STEM, what would that be?
The one piece of advice I would give to a girl considering STEM is (in the words of the popular song by Journey), 'Don't Stop Believing'. The road of STEM can be a challenging one but never stop believing in yourself. You can do it. Never lose sight of your STEM goals and dreams. Anything worth having is worth working for and a career in STEM will be extremely rewarding if you just stay the course. So when faced with challenge, get up, dust yourself off and get back in the game.
If you were a Girl Scout, what is your favorite Girl Scout memory?
I have so many great memories of Girl Scouts but the best was when I participated in a Wider Opportunity the summer of my freshman year in high school. We spent the week at the University of Wisconsin, learning about the science of roller coasters and other amusement park rides. We built G-force meters and at the end of the week went to Ceder Point in Ohio and used them on the rides to measure the G-Forces. I couldn't believe how much fun I was having with "science." After that experience, I was convinced I was going to college and majoring in engineering.