The College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) is proud of its students’ commitment to research, study, and accomplishments in the classroom and beyond. Meet Anike Sakariyawo, a Ph.D. student at the School of Universal Computing, Construction & Engineering Education (SUCCEED), Women of Color STEM Awards – Visionary Award recipient, and Founder and Executive Director of S.E.E.K. Foundation, Inc.
My name is Anike Sakariyawo, I am the Founder of Seeking Education Empower Knowledge (S.E.E.K ) Foundation, Inc. I consider myself a visionary, a change agent, as well as a community activist. I know the phrase community activities conjures a lot of different images for different people, but my definition of a community activist is anyone who fights to ensure that marginalized groups of people gain access to whatever is needed to reach optimal outcomes. My fight is to ensure that children of color have equitable access to education, particularly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, which encompasses Computing Education.
My journey in education started as a K-2 elementary teacher in Miami-Dade County Public School district. For five out of my fifteen years as a teacher, I taught Student Exceptional Education (SES) for students who were either gifted, had specific learning disabilities, other health impairments, and/or emotional behavior disorders. The remaining ten years were spent teaching biology, earth space science, physical science, and physics. I began teaching sixth-grade science in 2008, I was very intimidated by the idea of making science interesting and fun for students and had some difficulties doing so with the limited resources provided by the school district I worked in at the time. As an educator at heart, with a passion for learning and teaching, I began attending a local community college (Miami-Dade College) to learn more content related to various scientific topics. Shortly after, I felt compelled to complete my master’s degree in education for General Science. Being thrown in a sixth-grade science class to teach without proper training was the exposure I needed to realize how much I enjoyed science. I grew a love for science at the age of 26! This was the impetus for my transformation into a community leader in the STEM field.
I am a first-semester and Ph.D. student enrolled in the SUCCEED Program. Currently, my concentration is in computer science in artificial intelligence and how it is taught to students of color, how AI is used to teach students of color, are the AI educational software inclusive of diverse learners, etc. However, I have always enjoyed engineering, specifically the design cycle because it allows me to be creative to produce a process, product, or system.
During my tenure as an educator within the school district, I worked at Title-1 schools with many of the children living at or below the federal poverty level, residing in underserved and under-resourced neighborhoods. I typically found myself scrambling for materials that would help bring life to the scientific content I was tasked to teach. Since resources were scarce, I became very innovative in my teaching methods to make science class a fun learning experience for my students. As I continued teaching, it was obvious that no matter what school I worked for, the Title 1 schools lacked the proper funding to support STEM studies, and that lack of funding resulted in minimal access to science supplies, technology, and other materials that would allow my students to have hands-on learning experiences. I believed the inability to do that put my students at an educational disadvantage compared to their counterparts. I was inspired to help close this educational gap and bridge the STEM divide for my students. This empowered me to start implementing private STEM programs at different schools using my experience as a science instructor. This led to the creation and incorporation of S.E.E.K(Seeking Education Empowers Knowledge) Foundation in 2012. My mission was to give all children access to STEM education, thereby bridging the STEM disparity gap in Title 1 schools.
What is your concentration? What are you currently working on?
My Ph.D. research centers on Computing Education (CEd) Research, with a particular focus on addressing educational equity and disparities encountered by students of color in Artificial Intelligence (AI). This involves exploring various factors contributing to these issues and striving to build a more equitable and diverse computing education field. In parallel to my academic pursuits, I am actively engaged in volunteering and collaborating with non-profits and companies to deliver accessible, high-quality STEM programs to children in marginalized communities. Additionally, I am involved in establishing the first STEM Tech Health Hub in Opa-Locka. The SMART Tech Health Hub is a groundbreaking initiative set to be established in the heart of the City of Opa-Locka, dedicated to transforming a single-story building into a four-story multifunctional community hub. This visionary project aims to provide the Opa-Locka community with unparalleled access to cutting-edge technology, high-speed internet connectivity, a wide spectrum of educational resources in STEM, and essential healthcare services.
What are your goals and/or plans after receiving your Ph.D.?
My primary goal as a Ph.D. student is to bridge the significant gap in the pedagogical framework of Computing Education Research, particularly regarding the academic performance inequities of students of color in K-12 education. I aim to delve deeper into conducting research with the urgent need to address and rectify educational disparities that students of color face, especially in the evolving landscape of machine learning and AI. Collaborating with fellow researchers, educators, policymakers, and stakeholders is a key part of my plan to foster an inclusive, innovative, and ethically sound educational environment for children of color. Ultimately, as a visionary and change agent, I aspire to create a prototype pedagogical learning framework that is equitable, inclusive, and economically impactful for children of color in computing education.