Mount Marty College holds an annual conference for eighth-grade girls designed to increase their interest in science and technology careers. The Women in Science event offers a keynote speaker followed by several breakout sessions and exhibits to allow the girls a hands-on learning experience.

Tamara K. Pease, Ph.D. was a presenter of a breakout session on fingerprinting techniques and careers in forensic science. The Forensic Science Program Director at Mount Marty College teaches Forensic Science classes, serves as the Director of the Radiologic Technology program and is a Chemistry professor at the college. This is her fourth year as a presenter for the event. Lisa K. Bonneau, Ph.D. is Mount Marty’s Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Adjunct Professor of Biology. She is co-chair of the committee that organizes and arranges speakers for the event.

The October event usually draws over 250 8th grade young women and caps at 275 attendees. This year they had 267 girls, 20 teachers, 38 exhibitors and 20 presenters attend. Pease remembers her reaction to the first conference she attended. “Wow! That is a lot of energy and potential for the future. It’s amazing when you realize how much potential exists in the young women in South Dakota and Nebraska,” she states.

Bonneau adds, “What a great idea! That is the perfect age to get girls excited about science!” She explains that there are so many aspects of science: health, fish and wildlife, soils, math and engineering that girls can enjoy and become excited about pursuing.

Announcements about the program are sent to local schools and teachers can then register their students for the event starting in August. Each year the committee seeks out new presenters and exhibitors, requiring approximately fifteen each.


The committee also takes on the challenge of finding funding for the additional event features that are not covered in grant funds, such as meals and t-shirts, seeking assistance from various sponsors and donors. Another challenge Bonneau feels the program is faced with is finding presenters. Though they have regular presenters from the school and from the community, they need a sufficient number of presenters for the event. Time conflicts can also be a factor as it can be difficult to substitute a presenter into a particular time slot.

The presenters often gain from the program just as the students do, Pease explaining a rush she gets from working with the enthusiastic girls. “I feed off their energy and I get pumped by the interactions,” she explains. The day has its challenges too, and she is often physically worn out by the time the event is over. Tired, though a good tired.

Pease feels that this event is extremely important as the US lags behind other countries in their preparation of scientists, both women and men needed in the sciences to keep the country competitive. “We really need this type of program all over the state so every child has a chance to explore a future career in science.”

In assisting with the program over the years, Pease recalls her most memorable moment after giving the keynote speech a couple years ago. She followed a couple of students back to the lab to begin the breakout session. She overheard them commenting on her speech, “which I found exciting because I knew they had been interested enough to be listening.” She continues, “While the teacher was commenting that she didn’t think she would have done all that I had experienced in my life, the students were excited to find all of what was possible in life. They were talking animatedly about all of the possibilities they could see for their future life and for a career in a science field. Having that kind of impact makes all that I do worthwhile and it was an incredibly memorable moment to overhear their discussion.”

Bonneau had a memorable moment from a few years back as well. After a presentation and fish dissection from a fisheries biologist (also Bonneau’s background), she was excited to overhear the students comment about it being the best session of the day. “To hear that girls are excited about the same things you like to do as a career is very inspiring,” she states.

Bonneau would like to see the program continue and would like to continue providing quality presenters and exhibitors from a variety of backgrounds. Though they would like to expand their program in the future, they are currently held back by limited space. If you are a woman in science discipline and would like to participate in the program, please contact Lisa Bonneau or Tamara Pease by calling toll free at 855-MTMARTY or email them at or

Pease reminds us to encourage young women to be whatever they want to be as it is important for them to hear it. “Women are still held back by conventional voices that limit our choices.” She recalls a third grade play where she was assigned the role of a judge. A silly play about cavities, but Pease had anxiety over playing the role of the judge as she felt it belonged to a boy because judges are men. She continues, “I recall very distinctly her reply, ‘YOU can be ANYTHING you want to be.’ That was a great epiphany for me and I’ll never forget my third grade teacher for that.

Young women need to hear about the choices available to them and they need to be encouraged to push forward and to lean in, to become whatever they want to be.”

Bonneau agrees, stating that as a fisheries biologist, it was common for her to be the only woman on the crew. “If I did not have the support of my family telling me I could be anything I wanted to be, and the support and encouragement of a few key female faculty while in college, I may not have had the courage to pursue my interests,” she states, “I think it is important that we are able to give that back by encouraging girls through modeling and demonstrating the possibilities for their future.”