December 01, 2022

“The skills I learned from participating in sports are still with me today,” Dr. Joann Pfeiffer, Century College Chemistry faculty, says. “In team sports, you learn teamwork and time management skills, how to use everyone’s strengths, the importance of practice, and how to learn from failures—it’s a growth mindset.”

Growing up in a small town near Walker, MN, Joann enjoyed the benefits of Title IX when she was growing up and participating in volleyball, basketball & track during the 1980s.

The women who fought for Title IX legislation also paved the way for Joann when she entered academia later on. Although she had to deal with some microaggressions, those were nothing like the barriers faced by the women who came before her. By the time Joann was embarking on her career, the momentum to get women into the sciences outweighed any barriers that she came across.

“We associate Title IX with sports, yet there have also been strides on the academic side of things,” Joann says. “I recommend ‘Picture a Scientist’, an independent film from 2020, which follows female scientists and what they faced – small working spaces, more service duties, sexual harassment. They had to fight for equal working conditions, and used Title IX to get there.”

Joann got her BA in Chemistry at the College of St. Benedicts and PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. “I always wanted to teach and was always good in science. I like to try to explain difficult concepts and make them easier to understand,” Joann remembers, “A lot of people in my school and community encouraged me to go into science.”

At Century College, Joann is actively engaged in helping bring more students to the “academic table”, widening opportunities for everyone. Sixteen years ago, she began to work with former Dean Brenda Lysing and her Century colleagues on what this model could look like, and this snowballed into her work with several National Science Foundation (NSF) grants.

Working with the North Star Stem Alliance (NSSA), Joann has been helping to increase the number of underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Sixteen Minnesota colleges including the University of Minnesota are tracking the numbers of Bachelors degrees granted to underrepresented students, and the numbers have nearly doubled every 5 years.

“I want to help our students be successful at Century, transfer to a 4-year school, and continue to be successful in their careers, after they have their Bachelor’s degrees,” Joann says.

“Our work with NSSA led to partnering with Augsburg, Normandale, and Minneapolis College on another NSF grant called PRISM. The goal of PRISM is to offer scholarships for students who are Pell-eligible and connect students with faulty mentors in their discipline. These students are ready for transfer within 2 years. They are usually further along in their careers than the NSSA students.”

“Through these programs we are making a difference for Pell-eligible and underrepresented students in STEM.”

Learn more about Century College:

North Star STEM Alliance