Screenshot of Role Models Matter training

As part of CREWS' focus on providing professional development opportunities for students and faculty on the project, Jessie Herbert-Meny from spectrUM Discovery Area presented a virtual Role Models Matter training in early March. The training focused on three main areas to effectively engage public audiences: 1) How people learn in informal settings, 2) Components of a successful role model event, and 3) Facilitation pointers.

Jessie began by explaining that people learn and absorb information in many different ways. When a researcher assumes that the public sees or understands what the researcher sees and understands, there is the potential to miss an opportunity to fully engage with them. Asking the public questions about what they can see and their background knowledge about a certain topic can help scientists understand where their audience is starting from and help them to engage in a role model event that is more educational, meaningful, and impactful.

Jessie then described what a successful role model event is typically composed of and what faculty and students should think about when developing one. The key components include an icebreaker, a personal story from the role model, an interactive activity, and a reflection at the end of a visit. She also suggested that it was important to think about the overarching themes of an interaction and what props one could use to help illustrate and support their event.

After describing the ingredients of a successful role model event, Jessie wrapped up her training by sharing facilitation pointers, tips, and tricks to help engage students and the public during a visit. For example, she shared that using questions to promote learning and giving useful and specific feedback to a participant encourages higher-level thinking and reflection on the part of that individual.

At the end of the training, Jessie listed upcoming outreach opportunities for CREWS students and faculty to take part in as role models. These include spectrUM Summer Camp programming, Science in the Summer in the Bitterroot and Flathead Reservation, a feature on the STEM role model webpage, newsletter, or in science kits, and connecting with families at local science museums.

If you are interested in watching the full Role Models Matter training, visit