Faculty Empower Students in Curie Diaries Event

December 10, 2019 • by Grace Dickens

The Curie Diaries Event at UT Austin aims to create a space for female professors and students to discuss their experiences.

Four women in conversation, standing around a table

Students gather at the Curie Diaries event to learn from female faculty. Photo by Alisa Lu.

An event encouraging dialogue between female professors and students, the Curie Diaries, celebrated its third year this fall. The event aims to create a space for female professors and students to discuss their experiences, offer advice and inspire the future of the College of Natural Sciences.

"We really want undergraduates to be able to pursue their dream career and not feel like maybe being female or anything else makes them less capable," said Zoe De Beurs, UT Natural Sciences Council President and now an advisor for the event's planning. "We want them to be able to see that someone else similar to me, or just like me, was able to do this and able to forge their own path, and I can talk to them to learn what that experience was like."

The idea for the event originally came from then-biology undergraduate Obie Okafor in the Natural Sciences Council, which undergraduates Kendall Hagman, Nick Birk and De Beurs jumped on to help launch in 2017. The Natural Sciences Council is the student council for CNS, which acts as a liaison between students and faculty. 

Students and professors in conversation around a table

Students join mathematics professors Jennifer Austin and Alisa Walch in conversation during the event. Photo by Alisa Lu.

"Representation in all aspects is super important," said Okafor, who is now attending medical school at The University of Texas Medical Branch. "If you don't see someone doing what you want to do, then it's harder for you to feel like you belong or that you can do it. It really helps motivate you."

Professors from every field in the college are cultivated to meet the needs of every student's interest, De Beurs said. Jennifer Moon, associate professor of instruction and assistant dean for non-tenure track faculty, has attended the event every year since its launch.

"I've gained deeper insight into what students are concerned about, what they are interested in doing, and what their experiences have been," Moon said. "It's important for students to have confidence that they always land on their feet if they stay focused on what's really important to them."

The event is now co-hosted by the Natural Sciences Council and Women in Natural Sciences, a first-year support program encouraging and guiding women in natural sciences majors. The program is overseen by Elizabeth Morgan, student life coordinator in CNS.

Groups of women gathered in conversation in a conference room

Professors and students gather around tables to share their experiences and give advice. Photo by Alisa Lu.

"I think it's really important for students who are thinking about going into academia to be able to talk with faculty members, especially if they are worried about being a woman in their field," Morgan said. Talking to professors can also lead to research and mentorship opportunities, as well as inform students about classes relevant to their interests, Morgan said.

"I hope this event continues to help make those connections, and that students continue to use it to network and get to know their professors," Okafor said. "I want students to continue to feel empowered, and that they have a place in STEM."