Empowering Women in STEM: PRCC STEM Club Hosts Symposium with Special Guest Dr. Verba Moore

April 3, 2024

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Pearl River Community College STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Club for the Poplarville Campus hosted a Women in STEM Symposium on Thursday, March 28. Dr. Verba Moore, a retired Colonel from the United States Air Force, was the special guest speaker tackling the focus of Innovate, Demonstrate, Elevate & Advance Women in STEM. 

Four women stand in line with PRCC emblem on wall behind them.
Instructor of Biology Emily Carlisle, Dr. Verba Moore, Instructor of Biology Melinda Miller, and Miss Dixie National Emma Watts

“We host the Women in STEM Symposium because historically, women are underrepresented in STEM fields,” said STEM Club Advisor Emily Carlisle. “Events like this encourage and help create a more diverse and inclusive environment for women. The demand for STEM fields is continuing to grow and encouraging women to major in these types of degrees will help ensure a diverse and skilled workforce in the future.   

“By providing role models, such as Dr. Moore, we can empower women to pursue their interests and know they are not alone with any barriers they may face.  PRCC is very lucky to have many beautiful, smart, and talented women pursuing this type of degree.” 

PRCC Rodeo team member Emma Watts shared her platform as Miss Dixie National before introducing Dr. Moore. In this role, she is an ambassador for the state’s agriculture and livestock industry. After earning an Associates of Applied Science degree in business this May, she plans to continue her rodeo adventures and academic studies in Texas. 

Dr. Verba Moore speaks to attendees of the Women in STEM 2024 Symposium on the Poplarville Campus.

Moore shared her unique experience, from the decision to pursue a medical degree to her shift into implementing electronic health records for NASA. In her class at Tulane University with 157 graduates, she was one of four African Americans and one of 48 women. Her choice to become a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force catapulted her into a career where she was often a trailblazer. 

“There were times where I was the only African American woman at the table,” said Moore. “Sometimes I was the first, such as at Residency in Aerospace Medicine (RAM). It was never my goal. I did what I did because it was interesting”  

Sprinkled throughout her talk, Moore highlighted several influential women in STEM fields, especially computer science and medicine. She mentioned Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, Ada King, Dr. Grace Hopper, Dr. Rosalind Franklin, Dr. Katalin Kariko, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, Dr. Alice Hamilton, Katherine Johnson, and Dr. Sally Ride. 

Dozens of PRCC students attended the Women in STEM 2024 Symposium.

Ending her presentation, she shared different ways students can propel themselves to a fulfilling life. Students should stay curious, be open to new experiences, be flexible, plan for their financial future, always have something that gets them out of bed, and find mentors or be one. 

“The road can be curvy,” said Moore. “No matter the journey you usually end up where you were meant to be.”  

Dr. Moore speaks with PRCC Middle College student Sydney Smith.

Sydney Smith is a PRCC Middle College student on the Forrest County Campus while concurrently enrolled at Hattiesburg High School. She was incredibly excited to hear Dr. Moore speak. 

“Hearing her journey inspired me as an African American woman who wants to go into aerospace engineering and is also interested in the medical field,” said Smith. “I am happy to have this opportunity at Pearl River Community College to explore my interest.” 

The 2024 Women in STEM Event was made possible with support from the Mississippi Space Grant Consortium, the Science Department Development Foundation, and McGraw Hill. 

Dr Moore is an alumna of Millsaps College. Upon graduation from Tulane University Medical School in 1983, Dr. Moore was board-certified in Aerospace Medicine and retired as a colonel after 22.5 years in the United States Air Force. While in active duty, she obtained her Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics from the University of South Florida. 

She then became Assistant Medical Director at the NASA Langley Research Center. She then switched to Manager and Occupational Health Physician of the Agency Occupational Health Support Office at Kennedy Space Center. 

Retiring from NASA after 17 years, Dr. Moore is an avid volunteer. She is the President of the Col. Lawrence E. Roberts Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen, Chair of the History and Archives Section of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Treasurer of the Southern College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Chair of the Biloxi Branch NAACP Health Committee, and a non-clinical volunteer at the Bethel Free Health Clinic in Biloxi. She is a member of the Keesler AFB Protestant Parish. 

For the latest news on Pearl River Community College, visit PRCC.edu and follow us on Twitter (@PRCC_Wildcats), Instagram (PRCCWILDCATS), and Facebook (@PRCCMKTG). 

Article and photography by Laura O’Neill.

Each community college president is asked to bring two (2) wrapped door prizes, minimum value of $50 each. We will have a station set up at the conference for you to drop off the door prizes.

Each community college is asked to provide name tags for their Board members, administration, and staff attending the conference.