The 100 Diverse Corporate Leaders in STEM blog series features a new business executive Monday-Friday and the exemplary work his or her company is doing to support 21st century STEM learning and workforce development- particularly for women, minorities and under-represented groups. Learn more and download the whole copy at STEMConnector.org/100Diverse. Follow the conversation on social media using #100STEMLeaders. Today's Diverse Corporate Leader is Arleene Porterfield, vice president, global information technology at NI.
Vice President, Global Information Technology
As vice president of global information technology, Arleene Porterfield is responsible for NI’s global IT strategy, budget, systems, infrastructure, and service delivery. For years, Arleene has led the evolution of NI systems and processes to support the company’s ongoing growth and worldwide expansion.
Arleene is on the board of directors for Girlstart, a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower girls in STEM. Through its comprehensive programming, Girlstart provides a year-round, intensive suite of STEM education programs for K-12 girls. Girlstart’s core programs foster STEM skills development, an understanding of the importance of STEM as a way to solve the world’s major problems, as well as an interest in STEM electives, majors, and careers.
Arleene holds a bachelor of business administration in international business and marketing from The University of Texas at Austin.
NI provides powerful, flexible technology solutions that accelerate productivity and drive rapid innovation. From daily tasks to grand challenges, NI helps engineers and scientists overcome complexity to exceed even their own expectations. Customers in nearly every industry—from healthcare and automotive to consumer electronics and particle physics—use NI’s integrated hardware and software platform to improve our world.
NI believes the best way to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering and science is to give them fun, hands-on experiences with real-world engineering tools. NI engages students using interactive robotics platforms powered by NI technology that teach engineering fundamentals, such as mechanics, electronics, and software programming. NI provides support for robotics competitions, in-classroom mentoring, and enrichment programs.
Arleene on Diversity and STEM
Beyond standards, what are the first steps that we should take to curb the STEM education crisis?
If we’re going to meet the world’s demand for engineers, we need to make STEM learning an inviting, inspiring and exciting prospect for students. Students need fun, hands-on experiences using real world tools to demystify science and engineering, and serve their natural inclination to learn, discover, tinker and build. Making time and applying resources to do science and engineering inside and outside the classroom creates the rich environment students need for learning STEM skills that matter. When we create comfort and engagement with science and engineering practices early, we make students more likely to choose a path of lifelong STEM education.
How do we encourage students to continue their study of STEM subjects, particularly women and underrepresented minorities?
We need to help students understand the incredible impact STEM careers have on the world. Engineers and scientists are designing and inventing tools that improve quality of life and solve major world challenges. We need to make STEM career paths inspiring and relevant to them. We also need to engage students with hands-on experiences with real industry tools education to allow them to focus on doing science and engineering rather than memorizing facts and figures.
Locally, NI collaborates with Girlstart, a non-profit organization working to empower girls in STEM, to support afterschool programs that give girls hands-on learning experiences with STEM in a way that is interesting and inspiring to them. Additionally, we work with the engineering program at Huston-Tillotson University to help prepare underserved middle and high school students for college engineering and science studies through hands-on learning.
What STEM initiative that your company has supported are you most proud of?
NI has a long history of partnering with student robotics programs that make engineering as cool for kids as sports are today. These programs teach core engineering concepts, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and leadership skills. Students who participate in these programs learn science and engineering skills by doing. NI is proud to support these programs through technology donations, financial contributions and volunteer mentorship/time. By providing students with support and access to NI technology, we are able to help give them fun, hands-on experiences with real-world tools that prepare them for STEM majors and careers. Two of our most significant student robotics partnerships are with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and WRO (World Robot Olympiad). Students are significantly more likely to attend college, major in science or engineering, and be outstanding future employees because of these programs.
What is your advice to those involved in promoting STEM education?
Keep up the great work, collaborate with others and continue to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists through hands-on learning.
To make a large impact on STEM education, it is essential to collaborate with others. At NI, we are proud to have several partnerships that have helped drive change in STEM learning. An example of this is our partnership with LEGO Education. For nearly two decades, LEGO Education and National Instruments have worked together to improve how STEM concepts are taught. Through co-developed, interactive technology that merges toys that kids love with professional-grade engineering tools, students as young as six are getting inspired and staying engaged by doing engineering and not just learning about it. In short, LEGO is an expert in hands-on learning, and NI is an expert in engineering technology - the perfect partnership and marriage of strengths!