Middlesex Community College students hear from Women in STEM

From left are Danielle McGeary, Jamie Coryea, Jane Downing, Christina Papadopoulos and Julia Kelly.
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Middlesex Community College held its 15th Women in STEM luncheon recently.

Five female panelists — all active in STEM-related professions — visited with students, faculty and staff to share their experiences in their careers.

“It is not often that we get to recognize the great women we have in the STEM fields,” said Amanda Bordenca, MCC’s cybersecurity EDP systems analyst and coordinator of the event. “This event is an opportunity to show our students, faculty and staff that women are becoming much more visible and prominent in the STEM fields. We want to encourage our students to pursue STEM careers and learn about the possibilities that a STEM career provides.”

After listening to the panelists speak, students had an opportunity to ask questions and network.

The panelists included Jamie Coryea, Julia Kelly, Danielle McGeary, Jane Downing and Christina Papadopoulos.

An MCC alum, Jamie Coryea, was a member of STEM Club and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society before transferring to UMass Lowell for her undergrad in Electrical Engineering.

“It is important for the students to be aware that women can be successful and obtain a leadership role in STEM fields even though they are in a minority,” Coryea said. “Women in STEM demonstrate that regardless of your age, background, ethnicity, etc., you can do anything you put your mind to. It doesn’t matter what you have or where you come from, it is your drive that makes a successful engineer.”

MCC professor Julia Kelly believes in the importance of breaking down stereotypes that may hinder women from pursuing a career in STEM.

“I think it is important to see women in STEM as it shows we have retained women in the field, not only attracting them in the introduction phase,” she said. “More women in visible positions in STEM might also inspire young women to not think of spin-off clubs, such as Society of Women Engineers, for women as ‘reverse sexism,’ but an effort to claim and maintain more women for STEM.”

Danielle McGeary, vice president of health-care technology management, talked about coming from a small town and emphasized that “it doesn’t matter where you come from” as a matter of empowerment for the students.

“Hosting events like these is essential to fostering a strong pipeline of diverse professionals in STEM careers,” she said. “It is so important to empower those who are under-represented in STEM since having a diverse workforce is essential for the success of our disciplines moving forward. The more diversified our outlooks, thoughts and conversations are, the stronger our work and solutions will be overall.”

Jane Downing, chief or drinking water and municipal assistance branch for the EPA, spoke about her education history as a means to emphasize building a foundation for her career. She said she was inspired by the interest of students at the event.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics provide key foundations for the future workforce,” Downing said. “The Environmental Protection Agency was pleased to support MCC’s STEM program to inspire students to engage in public service and studies needed to tackle our most pressing environmental challenges.”

Christina Papadopoulos, Chelmsford’s town engineer, spoke on the challenges she experienced during her journey to becoming a civil engineer.

“These students got to see firsthand what it looks like to be a confident woman in STEM and hear our stories,” she said. “We didn’t let others dictate our futures. We achieved our personal goals despite all the obstacles, and so should they.”

For more information, visit www.middlesex.mass.edu/stem, or contact Kate Sweeney, MCC’s dean of STEM, at sweeneyk@middlesex.mass.edu or 781-280-3609.