Interview: Archika Dogra on Bridging STEM Inequalities Through her Org. Innoverge
Youth for Positive Change spoke to Archika Dogra about her organization Innoverge, which aims to bridge inequalities in STEM through accessible education initiatives.
To start, could you give us some background about yourself and your organization Innoverge?
Of course! I’m currently a first-year student at Princeton University studying computer science. I’m originally from the beautiful Seattle, Washington and I am passionate about the intersection of technology and social issues.
I currently serve as the Founder and Executive Director of Innoverge, an international youth-led non-profit dedicated to bridging educational inequities in the STEM fields through intersectional, long-term and accessible initiatives. To date, Innoverge has held 200+ free workshops, camps, and events across 41+ chapters in ten countries. We’ve directly worked with over 5,000 students from primarily underserved and underrepresented backgrounds. Innoverge has received generous support from orgs like Hershey’s, Disney, and AI4ALL and we have featured in publications such as Forbes, GeekWire and Elite Daily.
Innoverge’s model – to combine the humanities and STEM in education – is particularly cool. There seems to be this idea that the sciences and the arts are wildly different, but, as made evident by what your org is doing, that’s just not the case. Why do you think academia and the education system divides them?
Our STEMxHumanities model is an important component of our two-fold mission. We not only create educational spaces fostering diversity in representation, but focus heavily on promoting diverse perspectives and passions within science and technology. Regardless of whether students are interested in fashion, sports, business, or even politics – we understand the need for scientific and technological literacy. Our goal is to empower students to be confident, understand that STEM is a space for them to thrive, and ultimately apply their knowledge and skills through social impact and entrepreneurship.
In regard to the divide in academia between STEM and humanities, it is in part rooted in the disconnect between what is taught in the classroom and what is expected outside of it. Traditional education thrives off rigidity and categorization, which is why there is this great divide between STEM and humanities. However, the real world is a dynamic fusion of culture, media, technology, and socio-political forces (among many), which is why it is so imperative that we equip future technologists with humanities-based skills and vice versa.
Who are some youth figures in the arts and sciences that inspire you?
I think someone that everyone is talking about right now is Amanda Gorman, a phenomenal poet whose words create waves so effortlessly. She just performed at Biden’s inauguration and delivered a powerful message of unity and integrity.
On the STEM side of things, the Founders of Coding It Forward, a civic-tech organization bringing technological talent to the government, embody a sense of purpose and initiative that has created a ripple effect in the tech community. As students themselves, it’s inspiring to see how they identified such a crucial problem and created a remarkable network of resources, people, and programs to build a seamless talent-to-government pipeline.
With over 5,000 youth impacted directly from your work, Innoverge is, by any metric, a success. What tips would you give to gen-z changemakers who really want to create an impactful project like yours, but don’t know where to start?
It’s definitely wild to think about where Innoverge has ended up today, especially with how my journey started. I started off by co-teaching 5 students at a community center in 2017, and today that number has multiplied by over 1,000. However, I would surely say that my largest tip is that impact isn’t in the numbers, it’s in the stories.
At Innoverge, we focus on building confidence, trust, and meaningful relationships with our students throughout our programming. Many of our projects are long-term, spanning multiple weeks, months, or even years. You know that you are impacting a student’s life either when they tell you they want to become a scientist now or when they show you a social-impact oriented app they made after a program they attended.
In that regard, focus on listening to the people that you work with. Their voices and stories will be what fuel your initiative, and the impact they have on you will be comparable to the impact you have on them.
Finally, how can people reading this support (and get involved with!) Innoverge?
There are so many amazing ways to get involved!
First, join us as a Regional Director to receive access to curriculum, mentorship, funding, and logistical resources to lead your own Innoverge chapter and make a real and tangible difference. On the same page, you’ll see another opportunity to lead -- we’ve recently launched an incubator program that is relatively low commitment to serve as a mentor for.
Second, sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch with our opportunities, events, leadership initiatives and more monthly.
Third, follow us on social media – you’ll be the first to hear about everything! We’re on Instagram and Twitter as @innovergeintl and on Facebook as Innoverge.
BIOGRAPHY: Archika Dogra is a freshman at Princeton University and the Founder of Innoverge, an international nonprofit organization empowering youth from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds through free STEMxHumanities education. Alongside nonprofit work, Archika has interned and researched under the University of Washington, NASA, Stanford University, and various startups. For her work, she has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Elite Daily, and as a 2019 Global Teen Leader and more recently Geekwire's 2020 Junior Geek of the Month.