Empowered Women Event Encourages Careers In STEM Fields

Jamestown Community College is focused on encouraging women to pursue fields in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

The college held the “Empowered Women: New Careers, New Frontiers” event on Friday, supported by Perkins and College Access grants, to offer area female high school students a look into future career opportunities.

The event began with a keynote address in the campus’ Scharmann Theatre by Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic and regular contributor to the “Dr. Oz Show” and Huffington Post.

Kirkpatrick encouraged young women to not restrict themselves based on perceived personality traits and geography. She also stressed the value of seeking strong mentors, citing a study that showed teens with mentors in their lives were 50 percent more likely to attend college.

Between 10:20 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., students could attend panel discussions featuring local women currently employed in STEM-related occupations and students enrolled in collegiate STEM programs, hands-on demonstrations, activities and breakout sessions led by local women in STEM-related fields. Topics included architecture, environmental science, engineering, forensics, manufacturing, medical laboratory science, technical communication, plant pathology and computer science.

During one session in the CARN theatre, led by Nichole Segrue, CEO of Universal Tooling Corporation, panelists Rachel Nordine, director of quality systems at Trinity Biotech, Carolyn Rial, material engineer for Truck-Lite Co. and Anne Smith, compressor performance engineer for Dresser-Rand, discussed the role of women in science-related fields.

“Learning languages is huge,” Smith said. “There are a lot of global clients and it’s necessary to be able to communicate with them.”

According to the panelists, the languages in highest demand for STEM careers are German, Japanese and Chinese.

Stephanie Zwyghuizen, professor of mathematics at JCC, led a session entitled “Mathemagicians.”

With the help of adjunct professors Amy Hadley and Angela Raynor, students broke up into three groups while the professors used math to guess – rather, to calculate – numbers, shapes or cards chosen at random by students.

“Is it math, or is it magic?” Hadley asked as she shuffled a deck cards while performing a trick. After completing the trick and correctly guessing the group’s cards, Hadley explained how the trick was possible. She relied mainly on math but also a small amount of trickery.

By asking students a few simple questions or to perform a few simple calculations, each professor was able to charade math as magic and show interesting aspects of mathematics.

Jade Barber, associate director of student recruitment, led a session focused on a panel of students currently enrolled in STEM programs and their experiences.

Mainly, the panelists discussed how they chose a career and what attracted each to their majors.

“There is not a field that doesn’t involve science on some level,” one panelist said.

Another added that it was beneficial for every student to explore different career paths – to see what they like – before choosing a specific major.

“It’s OK to explore,” she said. “Your career path can change and that’s OK.”

Nearly 200 young women from 14 regional schools were in attendance.

Participating schools included Allegany-Limestone Central School, Ellicottville Central, Falconer Central School, Forestville Central School, Hinsdale Central School, Kane Central School, Maple Grove Central School, Olean High School, Otto-Eldred Central School, Persell Middle School Jamestown, Randolph Central School, Salamanca Central School, Scio Central School and Sherman Central School.