Georgia Southern University assistant professor of elementary education Beverly Miller, Ph.D., received the 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.
The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors members of colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Miller was recognized for her efforts in coordinating STEM camps for underrepresented populations. The first camp, Ventaja Panamá, began in 2017, offering STEM and literacy to underserved students in the country of Panama.
“Ventaja means advantage in Spanish,” Miller explained. “Ventaja Panama was designed with a social justice educational framework that encompasses three focal points: STEM and literacy content with hands-on activities and learning, a local or regional field trip that supports community engagement and collaboration and nutritious meals — hungry children cannot learn.”
After running the camp successfully in Panama for years, Miller decided to expand the opportunity to rural students in Bulloch County, Georgia. The inaugural year of the camp was hosted in June of this year and included a field trip to the Georgia Southern Museum.
“The Ventaja Statesboro program operated from the Georgia Southern Statesboro Campus to target first-generation college and underrepresented students,” she said. “During the week of the camp, we were able to expose them to a college campus environment through instruction with faculty, field trips that included the campus museum, interactions with athletic teams and eating at a university dining hall. At the end of the week, students made presentations on the Unsung Heroes of STEM to University faculty, staff and their supporters.”
Miller and her Ventaja Camps will be featured, along with the 78 other recipients from across the nation, in the September 2021 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity.
“I was truly surprised by this nomination,” said Miller. “We are often busy doing the work and never consider that someone is watching and taking notice. As an Afro-Latina woman I came to the United States at the age of six. I had great teachers who pushed me and expected excellence regardless of my educational background and language skills. They saw my raw talent and potential. As they did for me, I too see the untapped talent of the students that I serve.”
Miller and the Ventaja Camps were selected because of her targeted efforts to provide a low-cost opportunity for students to attend camp with both enriched academic experiences in STEM and food to ensure their basic needs were met.
“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication and mentorship for underrepresented students,” says Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity. “We want to honor the schools and organizations that have created programs that inspire and encourage young people who may currently be in or are interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”