2021-2022 Eboard Election Platforms

Hannah Cournoyer and Jewel Medeiros: Mentoring Committee

We believe that mentoring should take whatever shape most aligns with the goals of the mentees. We hope to create a diverse pool of mentors so our mentees feel seen and encouraged to meet us at their level. Our exposure to STEM was not until later in our educational lives, and because of this we found it difficult to orient ourselves without guidance. Now as graduate students, we find value in sharing experiences and including as many voices as possible in this discussion to make things easier for youth possibly interested in STEM. As co-chairs, we want to expand our reach to include more schools and programs that cater to underrepresented youth. We also want to continue the current programs that are aimed towards graduate students and post-doctoral researchers to build and maintain relationships with each other as well as with faculty members.

Aly Putnam and Melissa Paciulli: Mentoring Committee

There is significant power in women connecting and sharing knowledge and experience, specifically for women in STEM graduate programs. Structured and unstructured organic mentorship is extremely valuable and can inspire and encourage both the mentor and the mentee. A network of mentors across all stages of education and career is an essential resource for personal and professional development. Aly and Melissa will build and expand the current GWIS mentorship program and practices by bringing their personal and professional experiences around mentoring women in STEM and program development, and experiences they gained by being non-traditional and first generation students in STEM. Aly is currently a PhD Student in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology program within the College of Natural Sciences and Melissa Paciulli is a PhD Candidate in Transportation Engineering within the College of Engineering. Aly and Melissa have been dedicated to encouraging and supporting women in STEM and Co-Founded the Pioneer Valley Women in STEM network within the Western Mass region. Through this network, they hosted events each semester around topics such as mentoring women in STEM, strengthening STEM identity and exploring professional and educational pathways. The regional alliance evolved from their backgrounds working in the STEM Starter Academy, where Aly supported community college students at Greenfield Community College and Melissa at Holyoke Community College. As a student, Melissa founded the Women in Transportation Student Chapter within the UMass College of Engineering, and this chapter continues to thrive nearly 7 years later. Aly and Melissa aim to bring their professional and educational experiences in addition to their passion for supporting and encouraging women in STEM to continue the work already laid by the previous co-chairs of the GWIS mentoring committee. Building on the excellent existing work by the mentoring committee, Aly and Melissa will focus on creating and strengthening intentional mentoring connections between undergraduate and graduate students, graduate students and faculty, and thread mentoring throughout the campus body. Current informal and unstructured meetings have provided organic interactions and opportunities for mentorship. Aly and Melissa intend to continue these practices while also developing a more structured and intentional pairing mentorship program within the GWIS community. Aly and Melissa have navigated both personal and professional obstacles and have a passion for giving back and helping women succeed through mentoring and support from their peers. 

Bridget Benner and Hannah Wharton: Outreach Committee

Bridget and Hannah are the current outreach committee co-chairs. Bridget is a 3rd year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering and Hannah is a 1st year Master’s student in Environmental Engineering. Our platform is focused on engaging young students of various ages and socio-economic backgrounds in STEM activities, with an emphasis on getting girls interested in STEM.

Our goals for the 2021-2022 academic year are to continue successful GWIS outreach programming while working to develop new initiatives that serve the typically underserved and underrepresented communities in STEM in our region.

To this end, we will continue the popular Sound Bites Cafe series, where graduate students present on a STEM topic to students at Amherst Regional Middle School, Springfield Honors Academy and West Springfield Public School. This semester, we expanded this program by increasing the number of talks provided to the students to weekly talks in four different classrooms. We will also continue to host Girl Scout workshops, where grade school or middle school girls come to UMass to earn STEM-related badges. We plan to expand some of the workshops we use for Girl Scouts (i.e. coding and woodworking) to girls and non-binary individuals residing in Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield regardless of their association with the Girl Scouts. We plan to continue to partner with Holyoke Codes to offer STEM-related workshops to high school girls and non-binary individuals. This past semester we held a virtual cybersecurity workshop and this summer we are planning to hold a virtual robotics workshop in partnership with Holyoke Codes. A new initiative this semester is a collaboration with Mount Wachusett Community College on STEM panels for high schoolers and college age students to provide information on general college readiness, as well as the process of transferring from a two year school to a four year school. We plan to expand this initiative next year to other community colleges in the region.

In light of COVID-19 concerns, we have planned events that work in-person or remotely so that we can operate in this uncertain time. We embrace suggestions from the GWIS body and will work closely with outreach committee members to ensure that our programming reflects their interests, while meeting our goal of engaging younger students in STEM activities.

Rachel Tavares: DEI Committee

Rachel is a second year PhD student studying plant biology. She focuses on plant-microbe interactions and understanding how they relationships form and shape the environment. She grew up in an underprivileged area of St. Louis and wants to continue to advocate for an equal STEM education for all. One of Rachel’s goal as chair is to ensure all voices are being heard in the creation of programs and events that will support STEM students, educators, and the overall community. She is also a new mom and wants to create new programs and support systems for graduate student parents. Rachel wants to work towards eliminating the leaky pipeline that affects women in graduate studies emphasizing on the importance of integrating family life. She finds this particularly pressing given the COVID-19 pandemic when many new parents are isolated, without childcare, and desperately need the support! 

Kaitlyn Chhe: Finance and Administration Committee

I am a third year PhD student in the Chemistry Department. I am currently the acting finance chair for the 2020-2021 academic year. Since becoming committee chair, the finance committee has held a talk in collaboration with Smart About Money where GWIS members learned about student loans, budgeting basics, and investments. Additionally, I’ve worked with other committees in GWIS to figuring out funding and purchasing items for events in the past year. This has been especially difficult due to changes in the university’s policies during the pandemic. Currently, I’ve been working with the outreach committee to apply for a grant from Women for UMass Amherst (WFUM). If we are awarded this grant we will organize a seminar series on social justice and antiracism with a focus on women of color in STEM. If I am elected chair of this committee for 2021-2022 I will continue to apply for funding sources outside of UMass Amherst to give us additional resources and support to keep hosting our amazing events. I will also help generate more finance committee hosted programming including a grant/fellowship search and writing workshops in collaboration with OPD. 

Stephanie Le: Communications Committee

As part of my vision for the upcoming year, I want to bring back the membership aspect to our committee by having members help put together the quarterly magazine, participating as guests on podcasts, writing or collecting stories about graduate experience, conducting informal interviews with professionals, and learning how to use editing and art software. For the quarterly magazine, I will work alongside other chairs to document and celebrate their activities and introduce scientific cartoons/comics, and informal interviews with professional women in STEM with help from the Mentoring and Advocacy Committee. I also will collaborate with the Outreach Committee to hold workshops for young girls to teach them how to use Photoshop/Illustrator to convey scientific concepts or what they learned in school. In addition, I want to launch a regular GWIS podcast to help our members stay connected by discussing ongoing activities and issues facing the STEM community and graduate school. In addition, the podcast will also be discussing scientific research done in our community in laymen terms and how impacts the public. Thank you for your consideration!

Carey Dougan: Advocacy Committee

I am a third year graduate student in Chemical Engineering. I am also a 38 year-old mother of two high schoolers. My non-traditional path to becoming a graduate student was fraught with obstacles to pursue the career I wanted and deserved. I made the choice to uproot my family and move them to western Massachusetts from Washington, DC to pursue a PhD to equip me with the knowledge, experience, and power necessary to forge my own path in engineering. My goal along the way is to encourage and empower both my daughter and other women to do the same. I was selected by my PI to serve on the Chancellor’s Task Force for Sexual Harassment and Assault and have attended one meeting so far in 2020. After the first meeting I realized how important the work of the GWIS Advocacy Committee had been in the formation of the task force I was serving on, which inspired me to become more involved. I am committed to fighting for transparency and accountability to protect the safety of UMass students, and am eager to propose policies that will incite positive changes in the environment for all current and future students, and ensure that UMass is fighting for the well-being of their students.