Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast, Ed.D., is the Director of STEM Education Programs for the University of Southern California’s (USC) Joint Educational Project, which includes managing the Medical STEM Program. She has provided STEM instruction to over 29,000 underserved students, 900 educators, 20 school principals, and countless community members. She holds a doctorate in education, focusing on Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies in STEM at USC and specificially her research was focused on preparing elementary school teachers how to integrate science and technology into their classrooms in a culturally relevant manner. She received her master’s degree in education and biology teaching credential from the USC Rossier School of Education and she received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master of Science in Marine Environmental Biology in 2011 from USC. Her mission is to level the playing field for underserved students in STEM. Her education philosophy is focused on hands-on, inquiry-based and authentic STEM learning experiences. She has coordinated the creation and publication of a STEAM Powered Career children’s book series that features main characters of color and scientists of color for elementary school students. She has also partnered with the Mayor’s office Women in STEM Los Angeles (WiSTEM LA) group and has hosted events; programming for them and receiving funding for her educational equity work from the Los Angeles Mayor’s office. For her work in educational equity and DEI in STEM, she has received the Forbes 30 under 30 in Science Award in 2016, North American Association for Environmental Education “EE 30 under 30” Award in 2016, The National Association of Geoscience Teachers – Far Western Section (NAGT-FWS) Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award (2017), International STEM Education Association Mike Neden STEM Champion Award (2017), and the USC Rossier Second Century Alumni Award – an award for rising stars in their fields that support educational equity (2019). Her work makes an impactful difference by leveling the playing field in STEM for low-income students of color in the Los Angeles area.
The inaugural 40 under 40 cohort represents the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, activists, intellectual provocateurs, authors, and directors who inspire and catalyze us all to a more just and equitable world.