Naturally Curious: Tiffany Sessions Brings STEM to YouthOct 01, 2021 03:07PM ● By Kara Schweiss
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Tiffany Sessions has introduced students to a pulsating, three-dimensional human heart using virtual reality technology. She’s helped girls design T-shirts with twinkling lights. She’s created curriculum shared by a collaborative that includes NASA to students all over the country. It’s all part of being a STEM Educator for Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties.
“I get to be a kid every day, and I get to work with these wonderful professionals to create amazing programs. I get to be the first ‘kid’ to try them and get [programming] out into the community,” Sessions said. “If you’re a naturally curious human being, you can learn right alongside the kids.”
Sessions didn’t come into her position with a STEM background. She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational sociology and a master’s degree in sociology with an emphasis on urban education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She was nearing the end of her studies and serving as a graduate assistant for the UNO Service Learning Academy in 2015 when she applied for a project manager position at a new, national initiative called Imagine Science. The program is a partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National 4-H Council, Girls Inc., and YMCA; and Omaha was a pilot site.
“I had managed a lot of really cool service-learning projects with community partners, K-12 educators, and professors at the university to create great learning experiences for their youth,” Sessions said. “It wasn’t my STEM background that got me the Imagine Science position, it was the fact that I had managed many projects.”
The Imagine Science position began the same month she graduated.
“I had to hit the ground running. I quickly learned I needed more than just my abilities to project manage. So I learned how to select and develop curriculum, facilitating, training front-line staff—pretty much every aspect of the program,” she said. “I have been running with it ever since.”
Sessions’ work has shifted several times since 2015, landing her with Nebraska Extension in 2018 as a 4-H assistant.
“I was doing a lot more school enrichment where we go out and provide research-based STEM learning opportunities as a supplement to what the teacher is teaching in the classroom,” she explained. “In August of 2019, I was promoted to educator.”
In her current role, Sessions works to ensure that all youth in Douglas and Sarpy counties are provided with quality STEM learning opportunities in an informal environment, which includes after-school and summer programming, along with classroom enrichment. She has a special focus in serving diverse and underserved youth, and expanding the traditionally rural 4-H brand to reach more urban students. She’s created partnerships with organizations from local school districts and other nonprofits to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and NASA.
“I know that if I partner with the right people I can enhance and take my ideas to a whole new level to give kids amazing opportunities,” she said.
Sessions is also a board member for Keep Omaha Beautiful and is on the development committee for Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals, further supporting her goal to give back to the community professionally and personally.
“I like to be a bridge builder, so if I can be a resource, if I can help in some way, if I can give a young person hope or spark something in them, I’m going to do it,” she said. “Because I remember what it was like to be a child and I wouldn’t be where I was if there wasn’t someone there saying I could do it, or to expose me to new things.”
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2020 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Visit extension.unl.edu/statewide/douglas-sarpy/tiffany-sessions for more information.