Dr. Carmen Agouridis – who prefers to be called Carmen – is a Tennessee native. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering and Master of Science in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Tennessee. She also earned masters’ degrees in Public Policy and Business Administration as well as a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Kentucky. While she began her undergraduate career studying biomedical engineering, her love of the outdoors became overpowering and she decided to pursue a career in stream restoration. As a child, Carmen was unknowingly prepared for a career in male-dominated STEM fields as a result of playing on sports teams with her brother. At the time, her family lived “in the boonies” – and to avoid driving all over the place, her parents told her she had to play with the boys. In the interview, Carmen said, “sometimes people were totally cool and just accepted you just on what you did and then other times it was like, “Well, you’re a girl so you don’t belong at this.” And you would here those things. And I guess I was also very lucky by the fact that both of my parents were like “Being a girl has nothing to do with it – this is how you do things.”
Currently, Carmen is an Extension Associate Professor in the Biosystems Engineering department at UK. She is working on developing a Master Naturalist Program for Kentucky – Kentucky is one of five states that does already have this program in place – which aims to pair organizations with a need for trained volunteers, such as Wild Ones, Floracliff, and LFUCG, with people “who really want to do something meaningful in their time where they feel like they’re giving back.” In addition, she is the project lead for the Expanding Your Horizons conference at UK – a conference which focuses on promoting STEM in middle school girls. Prior to the event, undergraduate and graduate women prepare and develop various STEM related workshops with Carmen and Ellen Crocker. According to Carmen, “it’s like a science fair project in 45 minutes.” Expanding Your Horizons also offer workshops to parents with topics such as “How will I finance college?” and “What’s it like to encourage girls to enter STEM fields?” Carmen is also involved with the stream restoration project near the softball stadium – she hopes to involve as many classes as possible with the implementation of this project from water sampling to the final design of the area.
Carmen’s advice to women pursuing careers in STEM is “Don’t take no for an answer!” She also advises to find good people: “If you can, find what I consider good people - and what I mean by good people, is people that will encourage you, people that will support you, people that are excited about the science, and excited about the ideas and work with those people - avoid people that are negative. It doesn’t matter whatever discipline you are, but if you can find those people to work with that you can learn from and it be a mutually beneficial relationship, that’s who you want to work with.”