STEM and Style

Adding a Touch of Flair to Tech

At first glance, fashion and science don’t appear to have much in common. But alumna Shaiya Morris ’13, a fashion designer and owner of a tech company, says there’s a little bit of science in everything.

Morris’ involvement with local nonprofit Milwaukee Area Science Advocates (MASA) has provided her with the opportunity to combine her love of designing and sewing clothing, which she started doing at age 8, with her desire to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM fields.

Morris was one of two fashion designers who created clothing for honorees of MASA’s inaugural STEM in Style event in February. The sold-out event gave the 10 women being honored the opportunity to showcase their work in STEM fields and their personal styles during a runway show.

“I was stoked to be able to combine my love for fashion, technology and women’s empowerment for the event,” Morris says. “We received so much positive feedback.”

Morris knows firsthand what it’s like to be a woman working in STEM. When fashion design school wasn’t financially feasible, Morris got a job working for the City of Milwaukee. Her mother persistently encouraged her to pursue a “practical” college degree. Alverno’s Weekend College provided the perfect opportunity for Morris to work full-time and earn a degree in Business and Management.

She credits faculty members Adonica Randall and Sharyn Warren for completely changing her perspective and guiding her career goals.

“I hadn’t expected to see two black women teaching technology,” Morris says. “It was the first time I’d ever met black women in tech. It was profound.”

“From all of my classes, I can apply something to my daily life,” says Morris, noting that the group work prepared her for success in the tech world, where communication among teams isn’t always easy.

Today, her daily life involves running Wolke Tek, which she founded last September. From a business standpoint, the company provides cloud technology consulting, but one of Morris’ personal goals for her company is to bring more women and minorities into the tech industry. After a former boss told her about MASA and the organization’s efforts to empower girls and women in STEM, she had to get involved.

“I had to be part of MASA because I’ve worked in environments where women weren’t as acknowledged as their male counterparts,” she says. “The people at MASA are awesome and all about empowering girls and women in STEM.”

Morris’ empowerment efforts carry out at home, as well. Her daughter recently joined the robotics club at her middle school. Not surprisingly, she’s the only girl.

“I tell her to celebrate that she’s brave enough to be the only girl, and she can show the boys that she can do anything they can,” Morris says.

Alverno women and MASA

Shaiya Morris isn’t the only Alverno woman volunteering with MASA. Tracy Staedter ’95 discovered the organization while researching her upcoming return to Milwaukee after living in Boston for the past 20 years.

A graduate of Alverno’s Professional Communications Management program, Staedter fell in love with science writing while working for Astronomy magazine at Kalmbach Publishing in Waukesha. That led her to Boston and stints at Scientific American, MIT Technology Review and Discovery Channel. Now a freelancer, she focuses her writing on science, conservation and energy, including writing for MASA. She’s eager to become more involved once she relocates this summer.

And Alverno senior and biology major, Elizabeth Gamillo, wrote an article for MASA about Alverno’s Girls’ Academy of Science and Mathematics, a Friday evening program designed to encourage first-generation minority high school girls to pursue a college degree in the sciences.

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Area Science Advocates

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