Miss Michigan is also a UM graduate student pursuing a career in STEAM
Melissa Beirand is committed to getting more young people — especially girls — to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, art and math, or STEAM.
Not only is this about improving the long-term career prospects of young Michiganders, but it will also help a state that is creating jobs but facing a growing talent gap.
Beirand, 22, of Milford, has a pretty unique platform from which to talk about STEAM careers: She was named Miss Michigan on June 18 and travels around the region visiting schools, Girl Scouts, community organizations and more. responsibilities.
Inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEAM is a social impact initiative she has chosen to be a part of. She will take over the country if she succeeds in her next pageant, the Miss America Pageant, which will be held on December 15 in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“This is a real problem. We don’t have enough people to fill those jobs,” Beirand told me. “I work to raise awareness among young children. It’s often a long journey with a lot of learning. We have to get the kids interested.”
Beirand, a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan (she graduated with a bachelor’s degree there last May), knows a thing or two about inspiring a young person. Her mother, Dr. Marie Delewski, is a podiatrist, and Beyron watched her excel in a field where there weren’t many women at the time.
A family friend who was a plastic surgeon allowed Beirand to shadow him when she was in high school — which gave her the idea to pursue a similar career path.
Beirand hopes to become a craniofacial reconstructive surgeon, “focusing on people who have facial differences due to tumors, birth defects, burns and need plastic surgery,” she said.
A race to supply technicians, scientists and mathematicians
Indeed, businesses and schools are adapting to ever-changing talent needs, particularly as it relates to STEAM and the need for more young people training in these fields.
“As the importance of STEAM skills in business has grown significantly in recent years, so has the need for students to be prepared for successful careers in STEAM and to be leaders in the field,” said Brad Killaly, associate dean of the full-time MBA. program at the Michigan Ross School of Business.
“Top MBA programs like Michigan Ross are constantly evolving their curricula to not only reflect the latest research and business practices, but also to reflect and respond to what our society needs from business. Technology and data savvy business leaders are in high demand around the world. industries, MBA programs are very well suited to meet this need.”
Killaly added, “In recent years, leading MBA programs have added more curriculum and additional programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), as well as data and business analytics.
Michigan Ross also recently launched a certified STEM major in management science, design thinking and innovation, and a data and business intelligence concentration, as well as “initiatives such as our Fintech Initiative and Business+Tech Initiative. These offerings seek to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and hands-on, real-world learning experiences on STEAM-related topics, while connecting them with leaders in this emerging field.”
“The future is electrification and digitalization,” said Glen Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHAuto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “To remain relevant and competitive in the global economy, it is critical that Michigan develops a strong workforce with high technological knowledge and skills to keep pace.”
He added, “New jobs are created every day, and we have the opportunity to develop and find high-tech talent to fill them. If we don’t, that economic potential will go elsewhere. MICHauto and the Detroit Regional Chamber are very keen to be aware of this issue and focused on making students and emerging professionals aware of and able to access education and career opportunities in STEAM fields.”
Scholarships for women
Beirand grew up watching the Miss America pageant on television, and told me she’s learned a lot more about the pageant since participating.
“This is a scholarship program for young women,” she said. “They pay a lot of attention to interviews and talent contests. These are things that I’m very comfortable with.”
She became interested in competing when her mom suggested it after Beirand graduated from high school “to earn some scholarship money,” she said, explaining how expensive it would be for her to attend medical school and graduate school to prepare for careers in STEAM.
Beirand had just finished Country Day in Detroit, but was unable to compete in the local Miss Oakland County pageant.
A few years later, Beirand said she saw a Facebook ad for the same contest. Under different circumstances and with the encouragement of two colleagues (both former Miss Michigan Stacey Heisler, 1993, and Heather Kendrick, 2017), Beirand decided to go for it. The women are part of Nuclassica, a group of violinists who perform at local weddings, corporate events and fundraisers.
In August 2021, Beirand entered the Miss Oakland County pageant and went on to compete in the Miss Michigan pageant, where she received an $11,250 scholarship for winning.
Winning as Miss America provides an additional $50,000 in scholarship money. The Miss America Organization, which is celebrating its 101st anniversary this year, has awarded more than $5 million in cash scholarships and millions more in in-kind contributions annually through national, state and local programs.
As part of the talent competition, Beirand, a classically trained violinist, played the violin during the dance.
She is currently busy with her studies, work duties, working with Nuclassica and making time for family and friends.
“I’m not having a normal week,” she said. “Most of the time I’m dealing with a time management battle.”
She was practicing her violin for the competition and giving a mock interview as she prepared to leave for Connecticut on Dec. 8.
“I have a wardrobe sponsor and sponsors for things like hair, nails and tanning,” she said. “I’m also always looking for scholarships for girls for next year and beyond. It’s about giving priority to the Miss Michigan Scholarship Program, which has given me so many incredible opportunities.”
She also worked with state Rep. Samantha Stackloff, R-Farmington Hills, a previous winner of the Miss Oakland pageant. “We are working on a bill to protect arts funding (in the state). We need more focus on the arts and the role of the arts in STEAM, which starts with protecting funding.”
I asked if she ever thought about competing in the Miss USA pageant.
“No, it’s a different system,” she said. “They’re more focused on modeling, and I’m not. Miss America is about scholarships, professional development and giving back to the community.”
“I’m also very happy to break the stereotypes about beauty pageants,” she added. “Miss America is becoming much more modern. You are not judged by how you look. The swimsuit competition is no longer held and we have adapted the evening gown portion of the competition to focus on the on-stage interview rather than the dress.”
Did she have anything to do with Sandra Bullock’s Miss Congeniality? Bullock plays an FBI agent who enters a beauty pageant to find out who is trying to destroy the pageant and realizes, after mocking the event, that the pageant brings in much-needed scholarships and encourages sisterhood.
“It was one of my favorite movies growing up,” Beirand said. “It also resonates with Miss America,” she added. “We are like-minded women with big ideas who want to change the world and make it a better place.”
In light of her two wins, I asked her how she felt about the upcoming competition.
“I’m actually a little bit more nervous,” she said. “When I started, I had no expectations, so I just focused on doing my best. Now I’m representing the state of Michigan, so I want to make myself and my state proud.”
Contact Carol Cain: 248-355-7126 or [email protected] She is the senior producer/host of Michigan Matters, which airs Sundays at 8 a.m. on CBS 62. Watch Mayor Mike Duggan, Mayor Brian Barnett, Susie Avery, Carol Sue Hutchins, Natalie Hall and Officer Danielle Camille Woods at this Sunday program.