Tiffany Drake STEM advocate

Tiffany Drake, a new site manager at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM), is passionate about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach in the rural Missouri community where she lives. She shared her passion with high school students last fall during a career day at a local school and is meeting with local superintendents to learn more about how to provide STEM resources developed by LM.

Drake is a strong advocate for access to STEM education in part because she knows how critical it is to build the workforce of tomorrow and in part because she knows how challenging access can be for students in under-resourced communities.

While attending the University of Pittsburgh for her undergraduate work in chemical engineering, Drake became aware that her grade-school studies in a rural school district did not provide her with the same preparation as her peers who attended larger or better-funded schools. She sensed her limited access to early STEM education was a barrier she had to overcome in pursuit of her career goals.

Drake is by no means alone in her observation of inequitable access to STEM education among schools across the country. On Oct. 14, 2021, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) launched “The Time is Now: Advancing Equity in Science and Technology Ideation Challenge.”

The challenge issued to the American public is to answer the central question, “How can we guarantee all Americans can fully participate in, and contribute to, science and technology?” According to the OSTP, by almost every measure, the U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ecosystem is inequitable. While progress is being made to remove barriers to STEM education, more remains to be done. Learn more about OSTP’s initiative and the national call to action.

In addition to advocating for equitable access to STEM education on a national scale, Drake is also an advocate for increased representation of minority groups in the field. A large part of pursuing any career path is being able to envision oneself in the field. More simply put, representation leads to inspiration. Drake wants young students to find inspiration in the variety of paths they can take in STEM -- a variety that requires a diversity of backgrounds and talents.

As an example, when Drake was younger, she always loved science but was less drawn to math.

“People think to go into engineering, math has to be your favorite thing, but it definitely wasn’t for me,” she said. “Chemistry and physics were the subjects I loved, but I wanted practical uses for the things I was learning. I wanted to be out doing things with the science I learned, which is why engineering appealed to me.”

Before coming to LM, Drake worked in technical sales for the welding industry, and then food production. She most recently spent 16 years, the bulk of her career, as an environmental engineer for the state of Missouri. Her progression to her current role with Legacy Management was anything but linear, but the preparation she had with her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and later an M.B.A. equipped her with the opportunity to use her talents within various STEM fields in roles she never even knew existed.

“I think it is challenging for students as they learn about different subjects to see how they can combine all of that separate information to lead them to a potential career,” Drake said. “My goal is to get into those rooms and show them early on that there are so many opportunities that LM and DOE have to explore their interests beyond the jobs they are familiar with.”

Learn more about STEM with LM and the various ways to become an advocate for equitable STEM education, whether using a STEM resource produced by LM interpreters or signing up for a chat with an expert.

“By sharing STEM with LM and my own journey, I hope to show them how many more options there are for their future,” Drake said. “I feel very fortunate to be part of an agency that recognizes the critical need for this type of outreach to areas of the country that are often overlooked.”