Cover Stories

STEM Focus: St. Joseph’s Academy

There is no questioning the importance of science, technology, engineering and math in today’s world, and it’s equally critical that everyone has access to STEM education and career opportunities. Yet women have been a minority in these fields for decades. “Women bring diversity of thought and talent,” says architect Stephanie Wehmeier. “We represent half of the world’s population, yet our presence in STEM-related careers is severely lacking. Lasting, impactful solutions that affect change in the world are only possible when everyone’s thoughts and talents are maximized.” Wehmeier is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy. The all-girls, Catholic high school in Frontenac offers a rigorous curriculum that challenges each student to grow intellectually and achieve excellence in whatever she pursues.

The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools found that graduates of all-girls institutions report a 10% greater confidence in their ability to use technical skills and understand scientific concepts than their coeducated peers. To help create the leaders of tomorrow, St. Joseph’s Academy offers a robust, hands-on STEM program. Over the past three years, the school has expanded the courses offered in its computer science and engineering department. The program is designed to help students build the skills they need to succeed in modern careers, and classes cover a broad range of topics, ranging from video production to JAVA coding. 

The curriculum’s effectiveness is tangible in the success of the school’s alumni, and Wehmeier is a great example. A 2011 graduate, she studied architecture at the University of Notre Dame and pursued a career at the firm Hastings + Chivetta, where she is now a junior designer. “St. Joseph’s Academy provides an environment that encourages young women to explore and engage academically, socially and spiritually,” she says. “I gained exposure to a wide breadth of subjects, and the STEM and art classes offered sparked my interest in architecture. The emphasis on academic exploration and character growth prepared me for the transition into college and beyond.”

Wehmeier is currently sharing her experience with current students in the Engineering and Design Application class, and her architecture firm is helping the school make some exciting changes that will allow it to continue best serving young women. New initiatives include a state-of-the-art science and engineering facility and studios for painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture and digital art. She hopes the project inspires students to learn about the design process. “In architecture, no decision is arbitrary, and I hope they experience their new spaces and connect with this intentionality,” she says. “This project exemplifies the school’s mission to foster strong leaders. My goal is to provide an environment that encourages young women to explore as many fields and opportunities as they wish.”

These renovations and other projects were made possible thanks in part to a $3.5 million donation from the estate of alumna Barbara Weidert, who graduated in 1947. “This gift provides us with a major boost toward funding integrated science and art facilities, while also increasing scholarship support,” says school president Dr. Regina Mooney. “Barbara Weidert’s overwhelming generosity and the gifts of many other individual supporters will have a lasting impact on the lives of our current and future students.”

Founded in 1840 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Joseph’s Academy is an all-girls, Catholic high school in Frontenac. Pictured on the cover: Alumna Stephanie Wehmeier with current students. For more information, call 314.394.4300 or visit sja1840.org.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Tim Parker Photography

Pictured at top: Stephanie Wehmeier shares her experience as an architect with students.
Photo: Tim Parker Photography

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