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Instead of Wedding Gifts, This Alum Asked Guests to Support Future STEM Leaders

Learn how Anne Laverty (Milwaukee ‘12) is passing on her love of STEM to Memphis high school students.

A student working on a science experiment.

January 26, 2021

Fueled by a love for STEM, Anne Laverty (Milwaukee ‘12) and her partner are funding a new scholarship for Memphis students looking to pursue that the same passion. We spoke to Anne about her time at TFA, and the STEMphis Scholarship. 

What motivated you to start a scholarship? Why now?

Anne: Education is something that my partner, Mikey, and I are really passionate about. We both really enjoy learning new things across all fields, and specifically found a lot of interest within STEM fields, both in high school and in college. We are fortunate enough that we got to explore and develop our interests further in college and can both name specific family members, mentors, work, internship, and scholarship opportunities that allowed us to pursue our goals.

We want to pay that forward to someone else exploring their various interests. Mikey and I got married in the fall of 2020 and discussed that in lieu of a registry for gifts we would start a scholarship. We feel so fortunate that so many of our loved ones were able to donate to make the STEMphis Scholarship Fund a reality.

What did your time with TFA teach you? How does it inspire you? 

Anne: TFA was such a formative experience for me and it is very difficult to try to summarize the various ways I grew within and learned from my experiences. TFA brings the Nike motto "just do it" to life. If you have any idea, if you want to make a change, you can do it and you should try to make that change.

There were several ideas that were able to become reality—our school's science fair, the brown bag lunch series to expose students to different careers and community involvements, AP Chemistry on weekends, a science curriculum designed around social justice units, and others—because when these ideas were presented I was met with positive inquiry as to how we could make something work.

I try to keep that mentality with me, and feel fortunate to be in a residency program that is actively trying to evolve, and willing to try new projects and curriculum. 

As a corps member, and in the classroom, I spent a lot of time talking about malleable intelligence—the idea that your knowledge and intelligence can increase over time. Teaching chemistry and physics I would often see my students struggle with the content because they didn't think they could do it. This self-doubt and imposter syndrome is something I have felt myself as I pursued my medical degree. By trying to discuss and think about why individuals felt intimidated or that for some reason this content wasn't for them it reframed how I approached teaching the content to not only emphasize the objectives but also that the students in my classroom were capable of achieving those objectives. The power of believing in yourself, as cliché as that may sound, is incredible.

My parents came to my classroom when they would visit and my mom said to a student turning in a brief check for understanding of the day "I couldn't do that." And that student said, "I used to think I couldn't either." 

Moments like that were powerful and I continue to be inspired by the students I had the privilege of teaching, their families, and the numerous co-workers and faculty members I got the pleasure of working with and learning from. These individuals and memories are some of the primary reasons I want to practice community medicine.

What’s your role now? And how does your work benefit  from the time you spent with TFA? 

Anne: Currently, I'm in my second year of a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. I am very interested in primary care and specifically community medicine with a dream of working in school-based clinics to serve students and their families in a specific geographic area. So much of my passions for going to medical school arise from my experiences with TFA and my work benefits daily from it.

So much of medicine overlaps with teaching: assessing what patients know about diagnosis and preventative medicine, scaffolding information based on the individual's background knowledge, readiness for the information, and most importantly creating an environment where individuals feel safe to be vulnerable, ask questions, and grow. Being able to practice values-based patient-centered medicine is also something that has roots as an educator. Avoiding assumptions, trying to view (and teach others to view) problems from multiple perspectives, and giving accurate, timely information that allows individuals to have agency in the decisions they're making that are impacting their lives. 

What is the STEMphis Scholarship and what can participants expect? 

Anne: The STEMphis Scholarship will be awarded to a Memphis student who will be entering college August 2021 with plans to major in sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or becoming an educator in one of these fields.

At this time, the scholarship will be $1,500 to use in whatever way the recipient deems best to aid their educational experience for the 2021-2022 academic year. This can include tuition, books, transportation, housing, or whatever costs they decide the funds would best support. We also plan to be available as a resource for the recipient to discuss STEM goals. 

We're very excited for the opportunity to contribute to someone's educational journey and hope that this scholarship can continue to grow in future years to further benefit high school graduates in Memphis. 

Applications are due Tuesday, February 16, 2021.

Where do you see this scholarship in five years?

Anne: I hope the scholarship will be larger in that it can support either more students or contribute a larger sum to the recipients. Ideally, it would be incredible if we would be able to gather different STEM leaders or organizations around Memphis to both try to cultivate a curriculum of exposure to STEM fields as well as mentor recipients of the scholarship as they pursue secondary education.