The Inspirational Power of STEAM and Diplomacy

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A close up of a t shirt that says "WiSci STEAM camp, Malawi"
Following WiSci camps in Rwanda and Peru, this year’s program took place in Malawi.

The Inspirational Power of STEAM and Diplomacy

Upon meeting the outstanding young women attending our WiSci (Women in Science) Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design, and Mathematics) Camp this summer in Malawi, I was struck by how lucky we are to have our future in such capable hands. Some will become future engineers in Rwanda or Tanzania, others biologists in Liberia or programmers in Uganda and Zambia. Just as importantly, though, these women will leave the program as inspired leaders, of their communities, schools, and later, professions. One participant, Maria, from Wisconsin in the United States, hopes to bring her skills to the U.S. Department of State one day. Her experience at WiSci has affirmed this dream, much to my delight, as she shares in a camp blog post:

“To me there is this magical place called the U.S. Department of State. Most people dream of being an actress, a member of royalty, a doctor etc. For me all I have dreamed of is being a diplomat, then an Ambassador based in Europe, and then, one day, Secretary of State!

Some of you may be thinking what is the ‘Department of State’? The Department of State’s job is to represent the United States’ agenda throughout the world.

Maria shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia E. Palmer.

My name is Maria Aldana; I am a Girl Up Teen Advisor alum and, for the longest time, my dream has been to be a U.S. diplomat. I’m in Malawi attending the WiSci STEAM Camp, a private-public partnership between the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign and private partners like Intel, Google, American Society of Microbiology and more!

When I heard from the U.S. Department of State that U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia E. Palmer was going to speak at the opening ceremony of the camp, you better believe I was so excited to speak to her! I did what every girl wanting an opportunity would do – I scouted for a point of contact who could help me meet U.S. Ambassador Palmer. Luckily, I found a U.S. Department of State staffer and, later that morning, I got to meet her, have pictures taken, and even gave her my personal contact information. It’s moments like these that I know I’ll remember.

Being at the 2017 WiSci STEAM Camp has made me realize how much of a role the Department of State has in ensuring U.S. diplomatic efforts include STEAM camps like the one I’m attending. The U.S. Department of State, in my opinion, is the most important bureau in the United States government.

WiSci campers work in teams to present final projects that incorporate the program’s STEAM curriculum.

I have traveled throughout the globe and want to see a world where there is access to education for everyone, an end to child marriage, and a place where terrorism isn’t in the news every day. Out of all the Departments in the U.S. government, I believe that State is the most vital. I am glad my parents’ (and soon my) taxes help fund the Department of State!

I am so thankful that Foreign Service Officers (or FSOs for short) and Civil Service Officers (or CSOs for short) are protecting and ensuring that the U.S. is prosperous and safe. (I mean who wouldn’t want a diplomatic passport?)

Thank you, U.S. Department of State, for being my heroes and ensuring the world is a safer and better place to live in for girls like me around the world.”

NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin and Acting Special Representative of Global Partnerships Thomas Debass pose with WiSci campers.

I’m deeply inspired (and flattered) by Maria’s passion for international diplomacy, her commitment to STEAM, and what the attainment of her dreams may mean to the advancement of women and girls globally. I found this same passion in each of this year’s WiSci participants, which affirms the value of this program and the impact each of our WiSci partners had on this year’s participants. May our WiSci campers continue reaching for the stars!

About the Author: Thomas Debass serves as the Acting Special Representative for Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State. 

Editor’s Note: This entry is also published on