Flagstaff STEM City recently celebrated its 5th anniversary and we caught up with its new Executive Director Brigid Dineen to talk about what brought her to Flagstaff and her goals to promote science, technology, engineering and math education and careers in our region.
What brought you to Flagstaff?
I am originally from Wisconsin and grew up in a town almost the exact same size as Flagstaff. My father loved history and the outdoors and my mother was scientist and teacher. Consequently, I spent most of my childhood outside exploring, questioning and learning about our planet and its multitude of inhabitants.
College took to me to southeastern Ohio, a beautiful part of our country. After college, I lived in Chicago and Denver before landing in Phoenix. When we became parents, my husband and I knew we wanted our family to grow in an environment similar to our own childhoods. At this point we had been regular visitors to Flagstaff for over 10 years. We hiked, camped and, rode, enjoying all the intangibles Flagstaff offers it neighbors from the south. The intangibles are the reasons we decided to make the move from Phoenix to Flagstaff 4 years ago. Community passion for the importance of place, the ethos of a community that seeks to unite and strive together and the natural beauty of the untouched landscapes.
In your new post, what are your goals or plans of action to elevate STEM-related people and programs?
STEM City was born out of a shared community vision to recognize, celebrate and expand the tremendous human and capital STEM assets that exist in Flagstaff.
As the organization enters its 5th year we will strategically move forward within the original vision to convene, connect and collaborate across Flagstaff’s diverse STEM community. In the short term, our goal is to reach out and meet directly with the community to understand their priorities, their needs and how they envision success for their organization and the broader community. In the longer term, our goals are to help develop and deliver resources for sustained, integrated, outcome driven STEM programs accessible to everyone in our community and serve as an honest broker and credible voice that celebrates and widely communicates Flagstaff as a STEM City for all.
In light of the organization’s 5th anniversary, what do you think the most impactful elements of STEM City has been so far?
From my perspective as a past visitor and now citizen of Flagstaff and a person who has lived and worked in many parts of the United States, I would say the most impactful element of STEM City has been the people of Flagstaff. It started with a summit at Camp Colton involving Flagstaff 40 (now the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance), key business and educational leaders, Northern Arizona University, Coconino Community College, the Flagstaff Unified School District and charter schools.
From there it grew to include the incredible Mindy Bell and a dedicated Board of Directors and now 5 years later STEM City can count over 400 partners, individuals and organizations who at some point and time have said “yes.” Yes, I want to help recognize the great STEM leaders in our community; yes, I want to help celebrate Flagstaff as a STEM City; yes, I can help link a classroom to a real scientist; yes, I can support your efforts to obtain resources to meet your organization’s mission. The impact of human connectedness and collaboration can be felt but is hard to measure. However, based on my observations it is because of individuals and organizations willing to work together; the needle has moved.
I feel fortunate to join such a tremendous group of individuals and organizations. I am motivated by all the past successes of the STEM community and my desire to ensure STEM City promotes, sustains and strengthens the Flagstaff community.