Inaugural GradSWE weSTEM Conference 2013
The inaugural GradSWE weSTEM Conference at the University of Illinois was a success! You may remember my mention of this event previously here. The graduate committee of SWE (GradSWE) at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was pleased to host its inaugural conference, weSTEM (Women Empowered in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)! WeSTEM served as a forum through which current and future STEM leaders could motivate and inspire each other to excel at the frontier of scientific advancement and develop solutions for the next generation of technical challenges. Some of our graduate students participated in this conference, and even one of our faculty members served as a speaker!
Samantha Knoll, who participated in the event and served on the planning committee, reflected on the experience and the importance of the event. "I think the presence of women in STEM is really growing, but GradSWE wanted to do more to help this process. As students, it's sometimes difficult to meet other women in our field. Our idea behind developing this conference was really personal--it was about bringing our mentors to Illinois to share their personal stories and career paths with our peers in graduate STEM fields. I hope all attendees and speakers found it inspiring and come back for weSTEM 2014!"
Amy Wagoner Johnson, who served as a speaker for the event, shared her experience as well. "I was happy to participate and really quite honored to be in company with so many amazing professional women and graduate students. The conference as a whole showed a nice, diverse cross-section of career paths including more traditional (industry/academia) and non-traditional (nonprofit) options for those with advanced degrees in STEM fields. It also offered some experiences on dual career academic couples and then managing one's career, getting advanced degrees, and having children all at the same time! The setting and atmosphere were very conducive to asking questions and networking in ways that are not typical of traditional technical conferences. I was really glad to have been a part of the event. The women who organized this deserve lots of praise for taking initiative to put together this conference and carry it out successfully. The program was diverse enough that it could reach women in STEM with a wide range of interests and goals, but at the same time focused for this group of people."
The day-long conference was held at the Siebel Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL, on Saturday, April 20th. During the keynote lectures, workshops and networking sessions, women engineers and scientists with advanced degrees shared experiences from their academic and professional careerpaths and provided insight into their personal successes in STEM. Among the 12 speakers and panelists were Dr. Omnia El-Hakim, former Director for Diversity and Outreach at the National Science Foundation, Dr. Nina Tandon, TED Senior Fellow, and MechSE's own Professor Amy Wagoner-Johnson. WeSTEM was attended by nearly 60 University of Illinois students from 21 different STEM departments across campus and by three representatives from the national graduate SWE leadership team.
This event was made possible by the generous sponsorship from the SWE Program Development Grant and the Exxon Mobil Foundation, as well as John Deere, Bosch, Goldman Sachs, NanoBIO Node, the Whirlpool Corporation, and Sargent and Lundy LLC. A number of University of Illinois entities also provided significant support and sponsorship, including the MechSE department, the College of Engineering, and 17 other STEM departments across several colleges.
GradSWE is a network and support community of graduate women in SWE at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The mission of GradSWE is to promote diversity in graduate education in engineering and science to enable innovative and creative solutions to the future technical challenges of society.
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