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Face To Face: She’S At The Top Of Her Field On The World Stage - But It Has Not Been Without A Battle

DR PATRICE J Pinder, STEM education expert.

DR PATRICE J Pinder, STEM education expert.

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FELICITY DARVILLE

By FELICITY DARVILLE

Face to Face is a very special place in the newspaper for me, because it gives me a chance to highlight wonderful people. In some cases, I am truly amazed to find treasures existing in a country where people so often complain. I come across experts in fields where we still bring in foreigners to do the job. So, in meeting Dr Patrice Juliet Pinder, it proved to me that we must seek out and highlight these outstanding Bahamians doing extraordinary things all around the world.

Patrice excels on a global scale in the STEM field - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. She’s passing on her skills and love of science to the next generation and dreams of seeing a Bahamas where STEM professionals can help mould and shape the future Bahamas into everything it needs to be as a progressive country.

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DR Pinder presenting an academic lecture at Jiangsu University, China.

But it won’t be easy. Moving the country forward, she believes, requires a “mindset shift” where professionals like her are respected instead of marginalised. It also requires getting more young Bahamians involved in the STEM field - and she is doing her part to help make that happen.

“I want to see young students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds (like I came from) get into STEM, enrol in STEM courses at college and ultimately pursue STEM careers,” she said.

“Locally, there will have to be a strong cultural shift and mind shift for some people in various positions to begin to embrace and welcome their own and see the significant contributions that people like me can truly bring to our educational system and other systems and sectors. Those of us with world-class expertise can only help The Bahamas. But, until the mindsets can change in the positive direction, until some Bahamians take politics and petty behaviour out of things, until some Bahamians learn to respect bright minds with futuristic thoughts - especially women of excellence - things will continue to be what it has been.

“Our systems and sectors will continuously fail as a result and our place on the world’s stage will continuously be in the lower tier. We need to be seen as more than a country of ‘sun, sand, and sea’. It is time we brought more to the world!”

Patrice has achieved significant feats in her profession, but her journey has been an uphill climb. She is one of five children born to north Long Islanders Naomi Miller-Pinder and late Chief Inspector of Police, Rodger Levi Pinder, Sr.

The Pinders raised their children in New Providence in a modest home and community. There, Patrice, their youngest daughter, attended Claridge Primary School, then CI Gibson Secondary School. Very early on, Patrice’s teachers noticed she had a strong liking for mathematics and the sciences, and they encouraged her to excel in those subjects. Initially, the young Patrice had aspirations to be a medical doctor. She enrolled in courses for pre-medical studies and the biological sciences. She obtained an Associates Degree in Biology from the College of The Bahamas and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology with departmental honours, with a minor in English from Jacksonville State University in the US.

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DR Pinder attending a conference in China with other professors from Jiangsu University and the University of Houston.

She returned to The Bahamas and joined the staff of the Princess Margaret Hospital. First, she worked in the Medical Microbiology Department, then in the Department of Pharmacy, outpatient and inpatient services.

After working in the healthcare sector for some time, Patrice realised medicine was not her calling. She decided to switch her focus to plant and soil sciences and the environment, and eventually to science and STEM education.

She furthered her studies and obtained a Master of Science Degree with dual specialisations in Plant and Soil Sciences from Alabama A&M University. She then completed a Doctoral Degree in Science Education from Morgan State University. Patrice was an outstanding student and she pushed herself even further. She completed two Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships and Training in STEM Education at Indiana University and the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. She also did post-graduate courses and training in City Regional Planning with a specialisation in Environmental Planning at Alabama A&M University.

She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Education and Culture (IJEC) (New York), a position she has held since February, 2016. She is also the Associate Editor of the China-US Education (CUED) International Journal since 2013.

Patrice is an International Education Consultant, University Professor and a PhD Advisor with Global Humanistic University in Curacao. She was an International Research Expert attached to the Department of Sciences and Technology and Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Ton Duc Thang University, Vietnam. Here at home, she has served the University of the Bahamas as a former Professor of Science Education and former Adjunct Lecturer of Sciences. She has coached, mentored, trained or served as an external reviewer for many Doctoral candidates over the years, some of whom have gone on to become professors in their own right at universities like Oxford.

Recently, she was offered a contractual position as a Professor of Teacher Education with the prestigious Research Intensive Jiangsu University in Zhenjiang, China for the period 2020–2022, and was requested to relocate to China for the appointment, but she declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She has presented all over the world and has reached achievements on par or even superseding her peers; yet, Patrice has found that gender and colour still are the cause of invisible barriers drawn where none should exist.

“There have been and continue to be challenges and instances in which I have felt overlooked, excluded, marginalized and discriminated against even after accomplishing so much in my field,” she shared.

“Many times, I think people see my gender, race and ethnicity as big issues for them, rather than truly recognising my gifts, talents, world class expertise and professionalism that I often bring to any partnership or collaboration that I am a part of.

“Imagine being in international settings where you are the only minority - a black woman - and people felt the need to break things down simply to you as if you were incapable of understanding complex concepts. Imagine being overlooked and completely ignored as if you were not in the meeting room and a part of the discussions at hand.

“Imagine being at home in your Bahamas, the country of your birth and feeling like you did not belong, or like your contributions and desire to move the country forward were not seen as important. So, you constantly live in a mode of keeping one foot in the country and one foot out of the country with an ever constant thought of giving up on trying to make a real difference in a country where it seems like true educational advancement and the pursuit of excellence are not real thoughts or major focuses.

“Imagine being one of a few experts in your field of STEM education in The Bahamas and constantly, you and your efforts are rejected with hurtful insults attached to the rejection, simply because some individuals may feel intimidated by your youth, spirit of excellence and outstanding credentials. They may feel that you are a threat to their position or their desire to hold on to power in their governmental or private organizations or agencies, or institutions; or maybe there are resentments on the basis of you not being the right gender, not the right colour, or not being politically connected, or not possessing the right family ties or last name.”

Despite this, Rodger and Naomi Pinder have everything to be proud of, knowing their sacrifices were not in vain. Not only did Patrice do well, but all of their children achieved success in their own right. Her brother Rupert Pinder is a Bahamian Economist and Professor. Brothers Roland Pinder and Rodger L Pinder Jr are both in banking and finance. Her sister Pauline was in banking and finance and is now involved in private education.

Patrice’s education and expertise has taken her around the world to share her knowledge and be a part of meaningful work. But being a black Bahamian woman in a field dominated by white and Asian men has not been easy.

“Then there is my own self-imposed challenge brought on by societal pressure, which I consistently battle with,” she said.

“Not being able to have a real life, per se, not being able to comfortably strike a balance in my life to be able to experience ‘personal me time and a bit of fun’ and so the focus has constantly been on my professional and career advancements. Maybe this is because of societal demands or there being the implied belief that black women or women of colour have to be perfectionists in STEM if you are to be taken seriously. Because after all, society has put out there the notion that the successful faces of science, math, engineering and technology are either ‘white and male’ or ‘Asian and mal’e and not someone who looks like me. These have been but a few of the many challenges I have faced and continue to face on my journey as a leading black female of excellence within the field of STEM Education.”

With such challenges in the field, what hope is there for young Bahamians seeking to break into the field and make a difference?

She replied: “Yes, I have been through the storm and back in my journey to succeed as a black Bahamian woman in STEM Education and my story continues to be written each and every day. Yes, I have and continue to face challenges - mostly here in my Bahamas and to a lesser extent on the global stage. But despite everything, I would encourage others, especially young black women, to hang in there, pray to God daily and continue to hold your heads up high, keep your dignity, keep your integrity, keep smiling when people go low in their actions and attitudes toward you and continue to excel in spite of any and all challenges.

“I do not think much will change globally as well, especially in respect to black women being seen as respected faces of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education. I think the racial and gender discrimination will be there as not everyone will embrace you, that is just the way things are. I would say to young Bahamians and to young people in general, ‘keep being you, keep being positive, keep doing positive things, keep praying for changes, and keep excelling at what you do’.”

Patrice is proving that as she continues to excel. She is the first person to create, host and present a national game-based learning conference - The Bahamas first National STEM Game-Based Learning Teacher Training Conference for pre kindergarten to grade 12, held at the Lyford Cay International School in 2018. She conducted the first pieces of research on game-based learning in The Bahamas, which has resulted in internationally published articles and are available in libraries across the US and other countries. She also recently created a comprehensive multi-disciplinary learning model of migrant schooling, which is being touted for its value in international research.

Patrice even has her own STEM Education Research book - Issues and Innovations in STEM Education: Theoretical and Empirical Studies by Early Career Researchers.

She has been an invited peer-reviewer for several prestigious international journals, such as: The University of North Carolina’s Elsevier “Social Science (Quantitative Methods) Research Journal; Wiley Publisher’s High Impact Factor Science Education Journal; Springer Publisher’s, The University of Toronto’s School of Education Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, & Technology Education; SAGE Publishing—STEM Education; and Howard University’s School of Education Tier 1 Journal, The Journal of Negro Education.

Patrice gives special thanks to Dr Thalia McKlewhite and Dr Sonia Wisdom who served as mentors early in her career as a professor; Dr Christine Rahming-Nwosa and the Continuing Education Department of the University of the Bahamas; Retired Science Educator Beverley Taylor, whom she has never met personally but who serves as an inspiration; and to both Indiana University and the University of the West Indies, who allowed her the “physical and mental spaces” to conduct her post doctoral research. You can reach Dr Patrice J Pinder at dr.patricepinder@gmail.com.

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