In late April, the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council welcomed a group of six women from Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Saudi Arabia as part of a U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project focusing on women’s innovations in science and entrepreneurship.
The ladies kicked off their program with a visit to Pensacola City Hall where Councilwoman Sherri Myers greeted them and gave them insight into our local system of government. The visit ended with a surprise when Councilwoman Myers presented each visitor with a certificate of honorary citizenship to Pensacola!
Over the next three days, the group engaged in a full program of local meetings and site visits examining the role of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and innovative science programs in Pensacola.
Escambia County Extension Agents Beth Bolles and Carrie Stevenson hosted the visitors for an overview of the role of the Escambia County Extension Service in providing science-based education to county residents and their roles as women in a STEM field. Christy Draper, Amber McCarver, and Mollie Taylor continued the discussion on their work as women in a science field when they hosted the group at the Escambia County Water Quality Lab. Ms. Draper also discussed STEM Story, a local organization that shares the stories of women in STEM in an effort to encourage more girls to pursue careers in those fields.
The IVLP group also gained valuable insight into several innovative local science programs. During a visit to the National Flight Academy, Director of Operations Mark Curley discussed how students are exposed to science and math concepts while being immersed into the simulated world of an aircraft carrier flying humanitarian missions. Pensacola MESS Hall hosted the ladies for a tour where Director Megan Pratt shared her background and love of science that prompted her establishment of the hands-on science museum geared towards children. The visitors were also wowed by the cutting edge research being done on exoskeletons and robotics at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) where they first enjoyed a presentation and discussion with Associate Director Dr. Sharon Heise before touring the robotics lab with Research Associate Nathan Mertins.
One of the group’s favorite activities was a community coffee discussion with local women. Leigh DeSantis, Kristi Mitchell, Valeria Morrow, and Margaret Neyman attended and shared their perspectives and backgrounds with the visitors.
No trip to Pensacola is complete without visiting one of our many wonderful cultural sites, and the group was delighted with their time spent at the National Naval Aviation Museum where they also watched the Blue Angels practice and meet the pilots.
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council thanks everyone who contributed to this project.