Alumni Feature: Staci Adams

Staci (Brooks) Adams always had a strong interest in math and science, but when she enrolled at Henderson State University in 2007, she couldn’t decide on a major.

“I didn’t know much about STEM careers and I grew up where I didn’t see much minority representation in STEM fields, especially in physics,” she said. “A family friend suggested I pursue an engineering degree, but Henderson didn’t offer an engineering program at the time.

“During my campus visit, Dr. Rick McDaniel suggested I start in the physics department and later transfer to an engineering program at another school. I started the physics courses at Henderson and loved the school and department so much I never transferred. I stayed to pursue the B.S. in physics and live the collegiate life as a Reddie.”

At Henderson, Adams was very active as  a McNair Scholar, a peer assistant for the First Year Experience program, a resident assistant and a Reddie Ambassador. She was a member of Angelic Voices of Christ, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Student Government Association, Black Students Association, Reddie Sweethearts, the Society of Physics Students, and the Henderson State University Dance Company.

Today, Adams works for the North Little Rock School District at North Little Rock Academy teaching math and science. She provides inquiry based instruction from a STEM background through hands-on scientific and mathematical activities giving students a more “real-world” approach to math and science principles.

After graduating from Henderson, Adams attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where she earned an M.S. in microelectronics-photonics. Adams was awarded a GK-12 Fellowship from the National Science Foundation for two years that positioned STEM graduate students in local classrooms as “resident scientists” to provide supplemental inquiry based learning activities and encourage students to develop and maintain interests in STEM content areas.

“I did the fellowship and worked as a math interventionist in a local middle school while completing my master’s thesis working in the University of Arkansas Mixed-Signal Computer Aided Design Laboratory as a semiconductor device modeler,” Adams said.

As for the future, Adams wants to pursue liaison positions between STEM programs in public schools and STEM industries.

“I hope to provide schools with curriculum, resources and instruction needed to prepare students for STEM careers based on the standard of needs and requirements of today’s industries,” she said. “And in return, I want to develop partnerships with STEM companies to provide students with internship, co-op and career opportunities.”

Adams attributes much of her success to her education and experiences at Henderson State.

“The physics department curriculum was (and I’m sure still is) rigorous, but the faculty was extremely knowledgeable and made sure each student understood the content,” she said. “There was a time when I couldn’t afford my textbooks until my financial aid was ready, and my professors did everything within their power to make sure I had access to everything I needed.”

Adams said Henderson’s physics department takes a more “classical” approach which helped her in graduate school by being able to understand principle content.

“It was in my physics classes where I learned how to perform complex calculations both by hand and by utilizing computing programs,” she said. “My physics classes taught me how to properly solder electronic devices and foundations for computer programming and coding, which is essentially what I did during my graduate school tenure.”

Adams said her degree from Henderson also gave her a unique approach to educating her current students.

“Henderson has a renowned education program, but it was the principles I learned in the physics program that allow me to present a different perspective to the education of my students,” she said. “I am able to teach STEM principles now in more practical and applicable ways. I can teach both the content and emotion that comes with practicing science because I have experienced it as a student and a scientist.”

When asked what she enjoys most about teaching on a secondary level, Adams said it was “showing my students a world bigger than what they see.”

“I love being able to open their minds to an area that tries its best to explain the world around us and show them that scientists are not all white men,” she said. “Women and people of color have had powerful influences in STEM and continue to today.”

Adams said she would be remiss without acknowledging a defining moment during her studies at Henderson.

“If nothing else, the physics department taught me perseverance, resilience and tenacity,” she said. “Dr. Shannon Clardy taught me how to balance my academic work and social obligations. She guided me through a time of personal hardships and encouraged me to continue the path I had set and finish strong.

“I try to provide that same encouragement to my students. Dr. Clardy and the physics department truly bring to life the Henderson State moniker “The School with a Heart.”

• This alumni feature is part of an ongoing project featuring Henderson's outstanding undergraduate and graduate academic programs.