Ouachita Baptist University’s Patterson School of Natural Sciences hosted the inaugural
Arkansas Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Conference on Saturday,
March 20, for college students across the state. The virtual event was conducted entirely
over Zoom and featured a keynote address by chemist Dr. E. Ann Nalley, seven concurrent
panel discussions with 31 professional women in STEM fields and two sessions of poster
presentations highlighting woman-led research and honoring notable women’s contributions
According to the conference’s website, the goal of the event was “to recognize the
significant contributions by women in STEM fields while educating young women about
the potential of their STEM degrees.” More than 40 Arkansas undergraduate or graduate
students and faculty members representing five universities from around the state
were in attendance; several out-of-state participants also joined the conference.
“To our knowledge, there has never been a Women in STEM conference held in Arkansas,”
said Dr. Sharon Hamilton, director of the event and assistant professor of chemistry
at Ouachita, “and we decided to take advantage of Zoom to encourage attendance across
the state. This also allowed us to bring in a variety of professionals for our panel
and keynote speakers from across the U.S.”
Dr. Nalley, the keynote speaker for the conference, became the first female faculty
member of Cameron University in 1978 and served on the board of directors as well
as president of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society and also as president of the
American Chemical Society (ACS). In 2015, Nalley was recognized with the ACS Award
for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. She also holds a Ph.D.
in radiation chemistry from Texas Woman’s University.
The Women in STEM Conference offered seven concurrent panel discussions with 31 professional
women in STEM fields.
“Ouachita hosting an event with a prominent and nationally recognized keynote speaker
like Dr. Ann Nalley is truly a treat for all of the attendees and speaks to the size
of the professional network that Ouachita faculty maintain,” Hamilton said. “When
I think about all the panelists, our keynote speaker and volunteers we had for the
conference, I am humbled that they chose to walk beside us in creating a Women in
STEM conference that not only benefited students in Arkansas but across the region
thanks to technology.”
In addition to Hamilton, Ouachita’s Dr. Sara Hubbard, associate professor of chemistry
and holder of the Nell I. Mondy Chair of Chemistry, helped spearhead the conference
with assistance from other faculty members in the Patterson School of Natural Sciences.
“While so much progress has been made toward workplace equity for women and men, there
is still work to be done,” Hubbard said. “Showing our students that there are other
women out there who have dealt with the same struggles, questions and challenges is
important – especially to see that these women have emerged from their experiences
as talented women at the tops of their fields.”
“Our faculty really want to encourage young women to major in and work in a science
field,” said Dr. Tim Knight, dean of Ouachita’s School of Natural Sciences and professor
of biology. “We currently have more young ladies than young men majoring in the sciences
Students in Ouachita’s School of Natural Sciences, particularly students in the ACS
and Gamma Sigma Epsilon chemistry honor society chapters, also were heavily involved
with planning the conference, from contacting panelists to applying for grants.
Kayla Churchwell, president of Ouachita’s chapter of ACS and a senior chemistry, biology
and Spanish triple major from Searcy, Ark., coordinated much of the ACS chapter’s
efforts. To provide monetary winnings for poster awards, Taylor Barnhart and Caroline
Cole co-wrote a 2020 ACS virtual programming grant, and Jasmine Baughman wrote a special
project grant; both were selected for funding. Barnhart is a sophomore biology major
from North Little Rock, Ark.; Cole is a freshman biology major from Benton, Ark.;
and Baughman is a senior biology major from Pangburn, Ark.
“Our students and faculty taking the initiative to create an event with the goal of
connecting and inspiring college-aged women in STEM sends a message to others that
Ouachita continues to push forward and meet the needs of students locally and statewide,”
Aiiryel McCoy, a junior chemistry major from Shannon Hills, Ark., and member of Ouachita’s
ACS student chapter, moderated the morning session of the chemistry panel as well
as the afternoon session of the allied health panel. McCoy plans to attend medical
school upon graduation with hopes of becoming a dermatologist and one day to pursue
her Ph.D. and conduct her own research.
“This event is what girls and women in Arkansas need,” McCoy said. “I was able to
walk away with resources – people, places and potent truths – that I can use in the
For more information about the J.D. Patterson School of Natural Sciences, visit obu.edu/natsci. For more information about the Women in STEM Conference, contact Dr. Sharon Hamilton
at email@example.com or (870) 245-5092.
Lead photo: In addition to keynote speaker Dr. E. Ann Nalley and seven concurrent
panel discussions with 31 professional women in STEM fields, Ouachita's inaugural
Women in STEM Conference on March 20 featured poster presentations of woman-led research
and notable women’s contributions to STEM. Photo provided by Sharon Hamilton.