LAS Journal

Sarah Wilson '09: Women in STEM and the Physics of Skiing

Here at LAS, hosting visiting scholars enriches our student experience beyond measure. Bringing real-world expertise to LAS by inviting members of our international community back to campus supports our student programming and helps deliver professional development to our faculty and staff. Through our Alumni Visiting Scholar program, we aim to inspire our students and guide them to make decisions about their futures in a nurturing and well-informed environment.

Last week, we welcomed alumna Sarah Wilson '09 back to campus. After graduating from LAS, Sarah attended Williams College and then the University of Denver, where she majored in math and computer science, and then earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Colorado School of Mines. In the midst of her studies, Sarah was also a competitive skier on the Freeride World Tour circuit and did research and lab work on the biomechanics of skiing. She is now a data scientist for a company that is developing software for robots in the agriculture sector.

Sarah had a packed schedule while she was in Leysin, and we were thrilled to gain so much from her time here! She visited many classes and hosted two discussions in the evening with our students, one about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and her competitive skiing career, and the other a motivational talk about how women can overcome barriers in male-dominated fields. Sarah also had individual meetings with students interested in STEM, which allowed students to gain further insight and have discussions about their futures with someone who is an expert in the field.

Sarah visited many classes and taught a variety of topics, including Innovation for Sustainability, Vex V5 Robotics, Careers in Coding and Robotics, Pre-AP Chemistry, AP Statistics, and our students’ favorite, The Physics of Skiing. This class involved traveling up the mountain with grade 10 physics students to learn about the science behind everyone’s favorite sport! Experiential learning is an essential part of the student experience here at LAS. We believe that learning outside the classroom enriches our curriculums and allows our students to gain insight through real-world scenarios. Next time our students go skiing, I’m sure they’ll think about everything they’ve learned from Sarah! 

Sarah’s two presentations taught our students and faculty about the possibilities of a STEM career. Her discussion on women in male-dominated fields was both eye-opening and inspiring, and taught not only the women in the room but also the men about the importance of breaking the glass ceiling. Seeing LAS students empowered by Sarah’s presentation was so inspiring and reminded us of the value of our Alumni Visiting Scholar program as a way to bring different opinions to the table and learn from experts.

When talking with Sarah at the end of the week, she reflected on her time as a visiting scholar and a student at LAS over ten years ago. She reflected that the week went well because of the “continuity and relatability of experience,” which has created a heightened level of connection with the students. She also stated:

“To be on the side of the table where I'm now trying to nurture and enrich students' lives, but also having sat in their seat and know what it's like to go to boarding school on the other side of the world and to share that experience with them provides such a sense of connection and guidance as opposed to simply passing on information. There's a big difference between mentoring and teaching, which comes from the relatability and the shared journey, and it's been so much fun to be a part of that this week.”

Thank you so much to Sarah for sharing her time and expertise with our community; we can’t wait to host our next alumni scholar! Having attended LAS as a student herself, Sarah acted as an inspiration to our community and allowed our current students to learn about the possibilities that are out there for them when they leave LAS, whether that’s in STEM or any other field. Sarah finished by saying that LAS “will always be this space of nurturing and support, where I don't have to be someone different, where my whole self is fully embraced and accepted and part of this community and always will be.” We hope all our students share this feeling after leaving the Magic Mountain.


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