Students gathered in the Centennial Student Union Ballroom Tuesday to network and hear from alumni in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) field.
The Women’s Center worked with the Alumni Association to put together a panel of industry professionals who spoke on mentorships and offered advice for students interested in entering their field. The panel consisted of Aer Teale, Amanda Thomas, Anura Berdyyeva and Emily Javens.
“This is an area I wish I would have done more of. So ladies, find a mentor,” Emily Javens, water resources engineer, said. “I always felt like I was such a burden, and now that I’m older, I don’t look at it that way, and I wish I would have sought out some people.”
According to Brie Shaun-Kearns, a graduate assistant at the Women’s Center, the conference was specifically oriented around networking and making personal connections with professionals in the careers students want to enter.
Professors also shared experiences and “some of the blockades” they have navigated as women in STEM and what support options are available on campus and in the professional world.
Jenna Moseng, psychology major, attended the dinner to learn general tips from professionals that she can apply to her own career.
“I’m still trying to figure out what I am going to do with my major. But, being here and learning how the panelists were able to be successful, I was able to gain a lot of knowledge and get some tips on how I can be a better student and how I can further my own ways to learn what steps I want to take with my major,” Moseng said.
The event organizers gave students a networking guide with pre-written questions students were encouraged to ask and use as inspiration for their own. Biomedical Sciences major Lizzy Blair said she utilized this tool.
“Walking into this, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But when I got this purple sheet with all the questions on it, I was really excited that I would get to know these answers,” Blair said.
Blair transferred to Minnesota State last fall and hoped to learn more about campus resources and internships from this dinner.
“I wanted to really focus on my education and getting settled in. That’s why I went to this event, to hopefully get into some connections and networking,” Blair said.
The STEM field has been actively trying to diversify since it had been notoriously white-male dominated in the 20th century, with a 45% growth in representation from 1970 to 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Liz Steinborn-Gourley, Director of the Women’s Center, has STEM experience as a former Marine Biology major.
“I think industry is starting to catch on that if they don’t diversify, they’re really pigeonholing themselves as far as their reach,” Steinborn-Gourley said. “So, if you have app developers that are only cisgender, white men, they’re only going to have the lens of cisgender, white men. When you involve women, when you involve non-binary people, when you involve the LGBT community, when you involve different races, you start to see an evolution.”
Header photo: A panel of women spoke to a number of students and faculty on Tuesday as a part of Women in STEM dinner. The panel talked about how they navigate STEM jobs and what support options are available on campus. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
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