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Club celebrates Women’s Day with STEM panel

Graphic by Francisco Wang Yu

In honor of International Women’s Day, the Rollins chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) hosted a Women in STEM Panel to promote dialogue about the experiences of women in interdisciplinary careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

The event featured female professors from across several STEM disciplines and was held in collaboration with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Jaysa Ramirez (‘21), vice president of the ACM, said, “This time we thought it would be really interesting to partner with other student organizations, because as the ACM, that’s always one of our goals to connect with more of the Rollins community outside our department,”

Over 40 people attended the panel discussion and luncheon, where students and faculty had the opportunity to chat and network with panelists before the main event. Panelists included telecommunications engineer Dr. Krishna P. Kadiyala, biomedical scientist Dr. Marisa Fuse, microbiologist Dr. Brendaliz Santiago-Narvaez, computer scientist Dr. Valerie Summet, environmental scientist Dr. Emily Nodine, and biochemist Dr. Kasandra Riley, all of whom currently teach at Rollins.

“We knew we wanted to have a good representation across the board. We wanted to get as many voices on the panel as possible,” said Ramirez. The ACM, AMSA, and ACS recruited panelists from each of their respective fields of study to cover a broad range of specialties. 

“It’s really important for us to see people like us being successful,” said Santiago. As a first-generation college student, Santiago said she struggled to find mentors, but she knew she wanted to be a scientist from a young age. 

Santiago now holds a PhD from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and conducts research on oral health and microbiology. Despite her accomplishments, she still faces sexism in the field.

“I get a lot of ‘What? You’re a scientist? You don’t look like a scientist.’ What does that even mean?” she said in the panel. 

The panelists discussed challenges they have faced as women in their fields, including pressure to start families, doubt from colleagues about their ability to do their jobs, and finding supportive mentors, as well as recommendations for burgeoning female scientists.

“Practice obliviousness. There is an art to ignoring some of the nonsense that you have to endure,” said Summet. 

“I really appreciated the honesty that was in that room; it was more of a conversation than anything. They talked about industry versus academia, the value of Rollins itself, motherhood … and they were getting real about those topics, which was nice,” said Ramirez, reflecting on the ACM event.

Professors on the panel enjoyed the chance to learn more about each other through the discussion. Riley pointed out that, for years, she had worked in the same building as the women on the panel and did not know their stories of how they got to Rollins. 

The event gave everyone in the room the opportunity to build connections with the people around them.

“I think that creating a sense of community and solidarity between women in these different departments, knowing that even though those disciplines can be different and a lot of our experiences are the same, can be really motivating,” said Ramirez.

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