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Q&A About Student Career Exploration with Margaret Black of Lyda Hill Philanthropies

CareerConnect

The ACE-ED team recently sat down with Margaret Black, Managing Director and co-founder of IF/THEN at Lyda Hill Philanthropies. Encompassing the charitable giving and investing for founder Lyda Hill, Lyda Hill Philanthropies puts one core belief into action: science is the answer.

From founding the largest travel agency in Dallas in the late 1960s, to leading the charge to construct the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center in Colorado Springs, to revitalizing Pegasus Park in Dallas into a social impact and biotech hub, Lyda Hill’s varied career reflects business savvy, entrepreneurialism, and a commitment to balancing profit with purpose.

In 2010, Lyda signed the Giving Pledge, a platform created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to support high net worth individuals who wish to donate a majority of their wealth to charity. Lyda has not only pledged to give away a majority of her wealth; she has committed to donating the entirety of her wealth to philanthropy and supporting science in her lifetime.

Let’s hear from Margaret Black, Managing Director of Lyda Hill Philanthropies about how they’re connecting the dots between science and careers and education through the inspiration of Lyda Hill.


 

Margaret, tell us about your role at Lyda Hill Philanthropies and what you did prior to joining this organization?

Since 2016, I’ve worked on a team that develops, evaluates, and manages both the philanthropic and for-profit investments across Lyda’s portfolio focused on science, nature, and nonprofit empowerment. We invest across asset classes, and on rare occasions we incubate initiatives internally, like IF/THEN. IF/THEN is a national initiative designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers.

My background is in venture capital and nonprofit management. Prior to joining Lyda Hill Philanthropies, I worked at an education nonprofit focused on building and scaling informal learning systems in out-of-school time. It’s been a privilege to work with Lyda over the past several years to support entrepreneurs and change-makers closest to the problems and empower them to thrive.

Lyda Hill Philanthropies and education – what’s the connection there?

We envision a future in which more women innovators are empowered to solve our greatest global challenges, therefore there is no better time to highlight opportunities in STEM education and STEM careers. We are committed to funding game changing efforts specifically towards advancing women and girls in STEM and that starts with education, both in and outside of the classroom.

Research shows that for many students, they must see it to be it. How is your organization nurturing student curiosity around careers?

We know that representation matters: for students, seeing is believing. Our IF/THEN® Initiative is focused on empowering women STEM and inspiring young girls to pursue their passions in STEM. The work centers on the ethos that if we support a woman in STEM, then she can change the world.

We’re also proud to be a partner of Discovery Education, the global education technology leader. We thoughtfully provide content to the STEM Careers Coalition in a mission to support the next generation of diverse STEM solution-seekers.

Our partnership with Discovery Education brings the IF/THEN® Initiative to life like never before. The 45 million students and 4.5 million educators Discovery Education serves around the world now can find classroom resources that inspire students to explore STEM by connecting what is learned in the classroom to the wider world. With new Women’s History Month themed ready-to-use resources featured on the STEM Careers Coalition, students meet with women leaders in exciting STEM fields such as computer science, life science, Earth science, space science, and physical science. Each resource features instructional activities that are designed to spark curiosity, foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter, and encourage exploration of the vast opportunities in STEM-related fields.

Another way we’re inspiring students to pursue STEM careers is through Career Connect, a new platform that connects students to the industries, people, and skills that power our world. Career Connect serves as a connection point between educators and industry professionals. With Career Connect, teachers can request virtual classroom visits from industry professionals based on job types, industries, language preferences, and location. Plus, Career Connect helps us simplify skills-based volunteerism, offering employees rewarding experiences while showcasing the leadership of our organization for today’s learners.

What are some resources you’re excited about?

In 2019, we partnered with Litton Entertainment (now Hearst Media) to break traditional boundaries between broadcast and social media and to highlight the relevance of STEM in popular and personal interests of teenage girls via a television program airing on Saturday mornings. Mission Unstoppable, now in its fifth season and hosted by Miranda Cosgrove, is the #1 STEM show on TV and reaches nearly 1M viewers each Saturday morning on CBS.

Many of the contemporary STEM professionals featured in Career Connect have also appeared on the show. The fifth season is now available to stream on Paramount+!

What else do you want educators to know about careers and education?

We know from the experience of the past few decades that the jobs of the next generation may not exist yet. Learning about careers in science should be an ongoing and ever developing process that works to constantly expand the world view and interests of young people.

We should encourage constant curiosity and innovation, both presenting unexpected examples of how various careers use STEM and encouraging the pursuit of solutions to real world problems that could potentially turn into a career.

Where do educators go to learn more?

We encourage educators to utilize the STEM Careers Coalition in their classrooms.

To access the IF/THEN® Collection, visit ifthencollection.org. The Collection is the largest free library of photo and video content of contemporary women in STEM of its kind, and it includes tons of interactive content and tools that we encourage educators to bring to their classrooms and for parents to share at home.

Margaret Black joined LH Holdings, Inc./Lyda Hill Philanthropies in 2016 to develop, manage, and evaluate strategic philanthropic projects and for-profit investments across a portfolio focused on science, nature and nonprofit empowerment. In this role, she co-founded the IF/THEN Initiative, serves as Producer for the Emmy-nominated series Mission Unstoppable, co-founded Smithsonian-presented #IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit and launched the Better Together Fund, Lone Star Prize, IF/THEN Collection and Water Cooler at Pegasus Park.

Previously, Margaret served on the executive leadership team at Big Thought overseeing operations and programmatic systems. Earlier in her career she worked at an early-stage venture capital firm in Boston, Momentum Equity Partners.

She received her undergraduate degree from Boston University, a MBA from Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, and a MA from Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. In addition to the SMU DataArts board, she currently serves on the board of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Garden and chairs the Community Advisory Board for the Junior League of Dallas.

Margaret lives in East Dallas with her husband and two young daughters.

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