Limestone University WITS Conference To Return To Campus March 24 & March 25

Charles Wyatt

Limestone University will host a pair of Women in Technology & Sciences (WITS) Conferences on Thursday, March 24, and Friday, March 25, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Limestone’s WITS Conference was cancelled in 2020 and 2021.

The keynote speaker at each day’s luncheon will be Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, the Executive Vice President for Government Operations and Strategic Communications at Axiom Space in Houston.

Approximately 200 sophomores and juniors from high schools in the surrounding area will take part in the face-to-face conferences on the Limestone campus that will feature a variety of engaging lessons and hands on workshops ranging from engineering design challenges to the mathematics of secret keeping.

Students have the option to attend the conference on either March 24 or March 25.

Each day, students will be able to engage with women already in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) profession, as well as Limestone’s female students and faculty, to get a sense of the opportunities that are available in those fields.

Jessica Harris, Limestone’s Director of STEAM & Space Education at Limestone, has been vocal on just how important these conferences are to area high school female students.

“It's an honor to coordinate the WITS conference to celebrate the hard work and perseverance of some of the brightest students from our local high schools,” she said. “It is my hope that these high school students deepen their STEM passions, but most of all, that they feel supported. This event is for them. They are the students that represent our future.”

The WITS conference has received continued support from Duke Energy, including for this year’s event. Harris said that Duke Energy’s support has been instrumental to the success of the conference in bringing female students and the STEM profession closer together. Broad River Electric Cooperative has also been a conference sponsor in the past.

AstraFemina, a non-profit organization that connects female students with STEM opportunities, has arranged for Dittmar to be the keynote speaker.

A national influence in space policy and programs for more than two decades, Dittmar directs Axiom’s work with local, state, and federal government authorities. As Axiom is a key partner in NASA’s Low Earth Orbit Commercialization strategy and the leading commercial space company in Space City, she liaises directly as a thought leader with the U.S. government’s executive and legislative branches.

Dittmar founded and was most recently President & CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, an industry trade group of more than 60 companies supporting NASA’s programs in human exploration and science and promoting space commerce and the development of space technology. Her previous experience includes roles as Senior Policy Advisor for the ISS National Laboratory, member of the Board of Directors at the American Astronautical Society, and managing the Flight Operations Group and serving as the Chief Scientist for Commercial Payloads on the International Space Station Program at Boeing.

Despite the STEM field being predominantly male, Dittmar does not want girls to be discouraged from getting involved. She, too, faced similar struggles as she pursued her career in STEM. “Girls are often told they can’t do STEM. I was. Don’t accept that at face value – follow your interests.”  

The Aldrin Family Foundation is also supporting this year’s conference as a featured sponsor. Harris noted that the support from each one of the sponsoring organizations has made this year’s conference possible.

As the STEM profession continues to grow each year, Harris emphasized that showing students their potential in that career field at an early age will allow them to be better prepared for finding their niche in the STEM career field. By encouraging female students and showing them that they do belong in STEM just like anyone else, is essential to bridging the gender gap. She said that Limestone’s WITS conference aims to inspire the next generation of female learners to be excited about all that STEM has to offer. 

To find out more about the University’s WITS Conference, visit HERE

(Accompanying photo: WITS Conference keynote speaker Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, the Executive Vice President for Government Operations and Strategic Communications at Axiom Space in Houston.)