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Fireside Chat with Ari Melenciano

Published on
February 28, 2024

We were thrilled to join in the celebration of Black History Month by hosting a captivating webinar featuring the brilliant Ari Melenciano! This Fireside Chat was moderated by Stephani Page, PhD. Ari delved into her remarkable journey, from battling the lack of representation in tech to becoming a trailblazer in her own right.

Ari and Stephani discussed:

  • Overcoming Obstacles: Ari shared how the initial lack of representation in the tech industry initially discouraged her, and how she persevered to carve her own path.
  • Innovating in Education: Insights on designing STEM education in diverse and inclusive ways, ensuring that everyone has access to quality learning opportunities.
  • Empowering Black Technologists: The story behind Afrotectopia, the vibrant community Ari founded to empower and uplift Black technologists, fostering a space for creativity, collaboration, and innovation.
  • Exploring AI and Society: Ari briefly shared her recent explorations with artificial intelligence, exploring its role as a mirror to society and the profound implications it holds for the future.

Ari Melenciano’s Bio

Ari is currently a visiting faculty at the University of Maryland's Inaugural Arts for All Artist-in-Residence. She is an artist, designer, and creative technologist with a passion for exploring the connections between design and the human experience. Her work spans various disciplines, including research in human-computer interaction, social impacts of technology, counterculture, sound, and speculative design. As the founder of Afrotectopia, she has created a platform for interdisciplinary innovation at the intersection of art, technology, Black culture, and activism. She taught technology, society, and design at New York University and the Pratt Institute, as well as researched at an NYU Interactive Telecommunications Graduate Program Human in Resident and an inaugural NYU Future Imagination Fund Fellow. Ari further incubates her electromedia art practice through technology residencies and collaborations with organizations like Pioneer Works, Culture Hub, and New Inc. Additionally, she has served as a consultant for NYC’s Department of Education, contributing to the development of culturally relevant STEAM curriculum.

Moderator: Stephani Page, Ph.D., WCEC Co-Principal Investigator

Stephani Page is a scientist and STEM equity professional who has nearly 20 years of interdisciplinary academic research experience. She earned her doctorate in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Page is a proud graduate of North Carolina A&T State University with a bachelor's in Chemical Engineering and master’s in Biology. Her research has been recognized by the Biophysical Society, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Heart Association.

Throughout her career, Dr. Page has been committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academy and STEM. She is the creator of the #BLACKandSTEM community which has a social media following of nearly 20,000. For nearly 15 years, she has contributed to several major efforts around equity in STEM working with entities such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Board, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Dr. Page has been committed to science education, policy, communication, and engagement through entities such as Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Dragon Con, and South by Southwest (SXSW). Dr. Page has been recognized for her work in mainstream outlets including Fast Company, NPR, Nature, and Forbes. In her current role, Dr. Page serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement for the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), a nonprofit centered on advancing women in engineering since 1990. She also serves as co-principal investigator on WEPAN’s NSF-funded ARC Network and ACCESS+ initiatives.

Sites referenced in the webinar:

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