Whether gathering samples in the field or programming small robots, the young people in Heritage STEM Camps Foundation bootcamps gain hands-on experience and exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, and, yes, business too.
The driving force behind the Heritage STEM Camps Foundation and a host of other educational opportunities to engage and inspire youth, Tina Taylor left the high-level corporate world to follow her passion. Now she shares the joy of STEM with young people—particularly underrepresented girls—to nurture their interest and participation in STEM education and fields.
As the first African American female to sit in the C-suite, Taylor, then chief quality & information officer, had reached a milestone at GE Lighting. She joined GE with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, and after rising to a top leadership position, she was still interested in continuing to broaden her global perspective on business.
“Peers are important,” says Taylor, who decided to pursue a graduate business degree with an international focus for seasoned leaders. “I wanted to collaborate and learn from global thought-leaders outside my traditional work environment. I wanted a unique experience that would nurture my entrepreneurial curiosity.”
Taylor chose the TRIUM EMBA, a joint program between the London School of Economics, HEC Paris, and NYU Stern. There, she found a place to step back and reflect on what was next and how to leverage an enriching journey for the young generation with the support of her cohort.
Based on her own experiences, Taylor knew well the scarcity of women in STEM and the barriers to education and advancement that girls faced worldwide. When the program asked students to identify their capstone projects, Taylor had an idea to develop a unique educational initiative in South Africa that would introduce STEM to girls.
“I remember I made a pitch for the capstone when we were in New York,” she says. “I pitched it for 90 seconds and several people came to me and wanted to be part of that transformational change. That gave me the go-ahead that this was something needed and wanted.”
Soon she decided to devote 100 percent of her efforts to build a boarding school and STEM Business camps for girls in South Africa. Educating girls often results in a multiplier effect, especially in less invested and underdeveloped regions, she says.
“Anytime you give women work and opportunities, that changes their communities. When they learn information, they share it. It’s an investment in the community that improves GDP.”
Since that start, Taylor has expanded the camps and other educational opportunities to the U.S., including a two-year STEM cohort for girls and a series of online master classes for all young leaders. The camps feature hands-on experiences and an emphasis on business skill-building, including working in teams and developing leadership abilities.
Her success rate is high: Since 2016, 95 percent of participants enrolled in college and five percent started their own companies. Her work also has attracted funding from corporations, such as Smithfield Foods, Inc., and other donors.
She continues to reach more children worldwide and began offering STEM education in Spanish and will host several residential camps in Miami, Nepal, and the Philippines in 2023-2024.
Taylor also is changing global dynamics through the commercial and technology management firm, Core 3 Innovations, which she co-founded and is serving as co-CEO. The firm focuses on developing business solutions that drive economies of scale and support economic advancement in underdeveloped communities globally.
In making a choice to apply her own business skills with the aim of increasing opportunities for female advancement in STEM and business, Taylor turned an EMBA educational experience into a successful and sustainable cause.
“It gave me the opportunity to say yes to me and the things I am passionate about and create a path forward.”