Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.
Cammi Valdez – Enid Schools – DECA and TSA
From TSA to Ph.D., Harvard scientist urges girls to pursue STEM careers.
THEN: At Emerson Junior High School in Enid, Cammi Valdez followed her sister’s lead
and got involved in CareerTech student organizations. She eventually served as a state officer in both Technology Student Association and DECA, and by the time she graduated from Enid High School she had competed in everything from building balsa wood gliders to public speaking. That technology education and TSA involvement – as well as an influential instructor and mentor – were the first steps on her way to a career in science, technology, engineering and math. Cammi earned both a B.S. Professional degree in chemistry and a B.S. in mathematics in just four years at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and she received a Ph.D. in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology from Harvard University.
She says she still draws from her experiences in TSA and DECA, including:
- Leadership qualities she learned as a state officer. (At SWOSU she became president of the math honor society and her chemistry club, and at Harvard she held a number of leadership roles on her graduate student council, including two years as president.)
- Public speaking and networking.
- A love of all things STEM.
NOW: Assistant director for undergraduate research and fellowships at Harvard, she runs a fellowship program primarily for humanities and social sciences students – from underrepresented backgrounds – who are interested in careers in academia. She also runs a summer research program that prepares undergrads for STEM-related graduate programs.
Cammi says a STEM background can lead to job security, intellectual stimulation and more career opportunities than ever.
“The biomedical sciences field is exploding,” she said. “And the world is also becoming more reliant on computer science.”
The Harvard scientist has become a role model for young women considering a career in STEM.
“I remember having teachers who told me you don’t need to be good at math or science because you’re a girl…I hope students today have access to people who say, ‘You CAN do it.’”
Cammi Valdez, biomedical scientist at Harvard University