Madison Link grew up in Georgia and knew from a young age how important the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are. Madison’s mom and dad are major role models for her. They both were huge advocates for the importance of education, and both have careers in the STEM fields. Madison’s mom, Tina Link, is a high school biology teacher and would often stop on nature walks to point out moss and pinecones. Tina’s excitement for the most basic things in nature instilled Madison’s appreciation and scientific curiosity for the world around her. Madison’s dad, Michael Link, is a data researcher and has a very analytical frame of mind. His business skills such as looking at a problem logically, helped Madison learn from an early age how to create plans, keep track of patterns, and more. Madison’s parents made a huge impact in her life, thus she was not surprised when STEM fields of study interested her as she entered college.
Madison attended college at Georgia College & State University. She loved both psychology and mathematics and started studying them within her first semester. Her teachers were very supportive and she was often found talking to them after class about specific research stories, lecture information, and other academic material. Additionally, Madison invested herself in further academic opportunities such as an independent study on Lagrange’s Theorem and entering a lab on Harm Reduction Methods for Substance Abuse. She was always hungry to learn more about both mathematics and psychology, that passion led to her being elected as ‘Most Outstanding Senior Award’ in the psychology field.
Madison graduated Summa Cum Laude in the Spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Mathematics. Afterward, she knew she wanted to serve the country while also exploring a new place. With that in mind, AmeriCorps was the perfect next step for her!
In July of 2019, Madison moved to Prescott, Arizona to be GEM Environmental’s first VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America). Madison started as their Program Coordinator and instantly began to enact programs that engaged more underrepresented students in STEM fields. While Madison was in college, she was one of only five girls that took advanced mathematics classes, as a result, she felt it was important to showcase that women can excel in STEM fields.
In school, Madison often felt that women and other minorities in STEM fields were pressured to exceed expectations. Consequently, if these groups fell short of their goals, they were frequently mocked or looked down upon. To change that narrative, Madison started the STEM School Day initiatives. With this initiative, Madison went into schools and hosted engaging STEM Days with diverse students. For each STEM Day, she ensured that the students were simultaneously having fun and expanding their understanding of STEM. These events consisted of activities such as making paper bats fly, creating cars out of toilet paper rolls, and deploying a popsicle stick catapult! Madison’s methodology is that by keeping the mood positive and fun, more students will enjoy the STEM fields instead of feeling like they are too difficult to pursue.
However, Madison’s focus expanded beyond younger students. She also worked with college-age students by helping to grow the GEM for STEM Lecture Series. Throughout this series, Madison collaborated with professors at Yavapai College and invited STEM professionals as guest speakers to college classes. The guest speakers would discuss their profession: how they got started in it, the connections they made, and more. The role of these guest speakers was to show students the various careers they could have in STEM fields and to provide students professional connections. Many students have benefitted from this series, two even changed their field of study after hearing a guest lecturer speak.
In July of 2020, when Madison’s term finished, she transitioned from being a VISTA with GEM to being a staff member. She continues to work as the Program Coordinator, but she now focuses on building lesson plans for the Community Nature Center (CNC) which acts as a COVID-19 Education Relief Center. Students between grades K-6th who do not have access to technology, WiFi, or a safe learning space can come to the CNC to participate in place-based learning activities and receive help with their online schooling. Madison and others on the GEM team work to provide STEM lessons for the CNC and assist with the program at least twice a week. Madison feels very grateful that she can support the community during the pandemic, while also furthering GEM’s mission to help underrepresented students enter STEM fields.
During her year and a half with GEM, Madison has also been instrumental in collecting data for all of the on-going and new programs. She does this by creating surveys for the students GEM serves and analyzing the data from those survey responses. This data has since been used to initiate changes to the programs and ensure they are impacting as many students as possible, while also ensuring the programs remain fun and informative.
Outside of GEM, Madison has loved exploring all that Arizona has to offer. She is often traveling to new areas and exploring new hiking trails. She has also loved learning to rock climb in the Prescott Dells and is excited to rock climb in Sedona one day. During the week, Madison is often found cooking fun dishes with friends, including tandoori chicken, pad thai, and more.
If you have any questions for Madison, please feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would be happy to discuss GEM’s programs, her position at GEM, or anything else!