Academic Cultural Assembly held a panel discussion event through their EdMonth series on Thursday night in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. The event titled, “The Girl Effect: Moving from Why to How,” discussed the unique potential of adolescent girls and how to break the cycles of intergenerational poverty.
Panelists included Martha Adams, chief creative officer of Girl Rising, and Melissa Moritz, vice president of STEM and Education Initiatives at Teach For America.
EdMonth is a monthlong program dedicated to raising awareness about the state of education in the United States. The talk focused on how to achieve “the girl effect,” the idea that girls can play an important role in solving persistent and global development problems like poverty.
The event was sponsored by the Office of Religious Life, Graduate Student Government, Undergraduate Student Government, Program Board, the Academic Culture Assembly and the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab.
After seeing the lineup for this year’s EdMonth, Greg Woodburn, a graduate student in business administration at the Marshall School of Business, decided to organize guests to join the panel discussion and reached out to Hannah Nguyen, director of EdMonth 2015.
The event began with a screening of the Nepal chapter of Girl Rising, which tells the story of a girl named Suma. While her brothers went to school, Suma was forced into bonded labor at age six, but she was eventually able to break free and carve the way for others like her in Nepal.
Abby Fifer Mandell, executive director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, moderated the event.
BSEL provides students and faculty with opportunities to apply business principles to address world problems such as poverty. Through events, programs and classes, BSEL encourages social entrepreneurship. Mandell oversees all of the staff, programs, classes and events. She also teaches BAEP 499: Social Innovation Design Lab.
Mandell kicked off the panel discussion by asking Adams and Moritz how they obtained their current positions.
Adams brings her prior experience at the Discovery Channel, BBC and National Geographic, where she produced award-winning films and documentaries, to her position at Girl Rising. She was originally recruited to produce Girl Rising, but now juggles the television, filmmaking and social media components.
Through film and various other mediums, Girl Rising is a global campaign that emphasizes education, especially for girls, who the campaign’s creators believe are vital to social change. The Girl Rising film has nine chapters that show different programs around the world how they work to help adolescent girls.
Moritz works on domestic issues within Teach For America, a national organization that places recent college graduates in underprivileged classrooms to teach for two years and effect change in educational inequity.
After graduating from MIT with a degree in biology in 2006, Moritz joined TFA and worked as a middle school science teacher at MS 321 in New York City for two years. Since then, she has worked at TFA for seven years. She started off as TFA’s recruitment director for the Boston area but now leads TFA’s STEM initiatives. Moritz works with all 50 of TFA’s regional sites, as well as the national team, to help recruit STEM educators.
“STEM has the incredible potential to end cycles of poverty because there are incredible job opportunities available in STEM,” Moritz said. “Even more so, when you learn a science, technology, engineering or math subject, it teaches you how to look at challenges around you and provides a framework for how to solve those problems.”
Moritz first decided to pursue science after she was encouraged to do so by her seventh grade science teacher. As a result, she constantly emphasizes the importance of mentorship and role models.
“I think it’s a lot about empowerment and finding your voice,” Moritz said. “If you are someone like myself who has had an amazing education, you have a responsibility to the next generation to make sure that other women are able to follow in your footsteps.”
Mandell asked Adams and Moritz several more questions such as what a good day at work looks like and which countries are doing exemplary jobs in the field of education before turning to the audience for questions.
“When you talk about girls’ education, you don’t want to say it’s an either-or situation,” said Nicole Medina, a freshman majoring in communication. “I thought it was great how [Moritz] said it was a both-and situation.”
Following the Q&A session, attendees were given the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Adams and Moritz.
“It’s really great to see how women can empower other women, and as a male, it’s really interesting to see how we can do our part,” said Mark Lee, a junior double majoring in business administration and psychology.