Candidate Platforms AY20-21

Candidate platforms for committee chairs in AY20-21

Advocacy Committee Chair

Carey Dougan: Chemical Engineering

I am a second 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.

Communications Committee Chair

Laura Fattaruso and Stephanie Le: Geosciences, Chemistry

As Communications co-chairs, we would like to facilitate any activities that the members would be interested in such as book clubs, magazine, website, podcasts and videos. As part of our vision for the upcoming year, we 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, we hope to 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 Committee. We would also like to 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, we also 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. Thank you for your consideration!

Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair

Kimberly Acevedo: Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Kimberly Acevedo is a first year graduate student in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program at Umass Amherst. Her background primarily consists of general biology with interest in microbiology particularly. At The Gibbons Lab, her interest is the mechanisms differentiating the differences amongst fungi species. More broadly she is interested in convergent evolution, through comparisons with other species of Aspergillus lineages that are adapted to fermented soy environments. As a first generation student in STEM, she aims to provide and seek outreach opportunities that engage underrepresented groups in Science by enhancing communication and leadership skills. This includes attending and hosting inclusion and equity events to provide a common are in which people can gather and network. By allowing a common area in which talk of potential career paths that STEM has to offer that perhaps they would not have know otherwise. Additionally, as a member of the Pioneer Valley Women in Stem I aim to provide assistance and resources as well as aid in networking for my fellow colleagues.

Finance and Administration Committee Chair

Kaitlyn Che: Chemistry

I am a second year PhD student in the Chemistry Department. Since February 2020 I have been the co-chair of the Finance committee where I have been learning how GWIS and the finance committee works. If I am elected chair of this committee for 2020-2021 I will apply for funding sources outside of UMass Amherst to give us additional resources and support to keep hosting our amazing events.

Mentoring Committee Chair

Merritt Harlan and Xuyen Mai: Civil and Environmental Engineering

We believe that mentoring can be as simple as just sharing personal experiences. Our goal is to foster a safe, and collaborative space for women in science and engineering to flourish as both mentors and mentees to each other.

As previous term’s co-chairs to the mentoring committee for the academic year of 2019-2020, we hope to maintain our high committee membership and strong peer-to-peer support network through committee events like Family Field Day. We want to build off the success of previous years in mentoring and continue providing support for women in STEM.
We also want to expand on our faculty/postdocs/grad mentoring opportunities and undergrad mentoring not only through informal social gatherings but also through workshops and career training collaboration with career centers, GSS and graduate school programs.

This year we also want to focus on providing active members of the Mentoring Committee with more hands on leadership opportunities and higher stake involvement. We want to encourage the next group of women to run for leadership positions within GWIS.

Outreach Committee Chair

Bridget Benner and Fiona O’Donnell: Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering

Fiona is a 4th year PhD student in Civil Engineering and a current outreach committee co-chair. Bridget is a 2nd year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering and an active member of the outreach committee. Our platform is focused on engaging kids of various ages and socio-economic backgrounds in STEM activities, with an emphasis on getting young girls interested in STEM while serving as role models of successful women in STEM fields.

Our goals are two-fold: we plan to continue successful GWIS Outreach programming while working to develop new initiatives that serve the typically underserved communities in our region.

To this end, we will continue the popular Sound Bites Cafe series, where graduate students discuss their research to middle school students at Amherst Middle School during their lunch break on Fridays. This semester, a new initiative to bring STEM talks to TAG Middle School in Springfield was developed where graduate students talk to middle schoolers about their research and perform hands-on activities with the students on a monthly basis. We plan to expand this program by increasing the number of talks provided to the students from once a month to biweekly. 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 will expand some of the workshops we use for Girl Scouts (i.e. coding and woodworking) to girls residing in Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield regardless of their association with the Girl Scouts. Finally, we are also looking to host a new STEM workshop for high school girls, possibly in collaboration with Holyoke Codes, with the theme and activities determined by committee member interest (e.g. water resources, renewable energy, etc).

In light of COVID-19 concerns, the GWIS Outreach committee had to make the disappointing yet necessary decision to cancel or postpone some of our workshops and initiatives. If elected, we plan to offer the cancelled events during the summer or fall. Specifically, we plan to offer the Cybersecurity Workshop, originally planned in April, this summer. If the Girl Scout Woodworking Workshop, currently postponed until May, is also cancelled, we will offer this workshop in the fall.

Overall, we plan to continue the successful GWIS outreach programs of previous years, while also expanding our programming to new topics and new audiences. 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.