Wendy Stary, assistant professor in engineering and technology, is the new director of STEPS for Girls — Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer program for Girls at UW-Stout.
The five-day program, which began in 1997, is for girls entering seventh grade. They attend labs and classes, live in residence halls and use university dining and other facilities.
Stary replaces Glendali Rodriguez, who has begun a new position at UW-Stout as associate vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs.
Stary isn't planning any major STEPS changes in the near future.
"I think the fact that the STEPS for Girls program is in its 18th year says a lot about the overall quality of the program. What I do hope to have an impact on is the economic viability and sustainability of the program with the ultimate goal of being able to maintain a competitive tuition and limited full scholarships, to assure a diversity of participants," she said.
For continued success of the program, she points to the contributions of the many people who are passionate and committed to its mission, including sponsors, the university, community and graduates.
"I love that the girls are given a multitude of opportunities to build confidence and realize that they are capable of so much more than they might ever have dreamed possible, with constant reinforcement that it's OK to be cute and smart!" she said.
Stary, who grew up on a small Wisconsin dairy farm in Augusta, earned a bachelor's degree in manufacturing engineering from UW-Stout in 2001. After working in the plastics industry, she returned and earned her master's in manufacturing engineering in 2008 and joined the faculty.
She became acquainted with the STEPS program in the summer of 1998, when she worked as a student lab assistant.
Her roles with STEPS have included serving as the "Lego geek and mentor to girls attending the advanced STEPS" and since 2008 teaching plastics at STEPS, she said.
The program is held four times during the summer with approximately 40 girls in each five-day camp. STEPS graduates are hired for all program leadership roles, including high school junior counselors, lab assistants and college level counselors. In 2013 more than 60 applications were received for each of the high school positions.