By Sophia Simeone
Last Friday, Simmons welcomed Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito to campus to discuss the College’s unique approach to education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The Lieutenant Governor met with President Helen Drinan and members of the Simmons leadership team, who detailed Simmons’ efforts to engage young women in traditionally male-dominated fields of study.
In order to see these efforts in action, Lieutenant Governor Polito received a tour of the undergraduate research labs in the Park Science building. There, accompanied by Professor Jenna Canfield, STEM students presented their research and explained how the “Simmons approach” has encouraged them to pursue a STEM education. Topics of research ranged from genetics and disease to the chemical composition of popular eyeshadow brands.
Kelsey Heavener, ’17, was one of the undergraduates to present her research, which focuses on determining the cause of cystic fibrosis. She walked Lieutenant Governor Polito through the complicated process of isolating and eliminating mutant genes. “I think it’s so exciting and eye-opening to tell people what Simmons is about,” Kelsey told The Voice. “You forget because you’re so into it. I’m happy to be able to talk about what we do here, to share it with someone from the outside.”
Lieutenant Governor Polito commented admiringly on the culture Simmons fosters around science and technology. “What I’m seeing here is a community that encourages women to try and explore and engage and not be afraid to take risks,” the Lieutenant Governor told The Voice. “You have a very special sort of ecosystem that exists here. One that’s not exactly evident in the world of politics,” she added, laughing.
Lieutenant Governor Polito, a native of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, earned her Bachelor’s degree from Boston College in 1988 and her Master’s degree from New England School of Law in 1991. In 2014, she was elected to her current post alongside first-term Governor Charlie Baker. She has been in politics for nearly 21 years.
“I never knew, when I was first elected to a board of selectmen in my hometown, that I would this many years later be your Lieutenant Governor,” said Lieutenant Governor Polito. When asked what advice she would give to young women pursuing careers in male-dominated fields, her answer was decisive. “My advice is to not be afraid, to try, even if you fall short. Other opportunities will open. You just have to look really hard at what’s in front of you and find your passion. If you’re really passionate about something, it’s not work.”