In an effort to create a space to support and mentor Rensselaer women pursuing a career in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, last month members of the Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program and the Society of Women Engineers hosted the 10th annual “Women Excelling in STEM” program. One hundred and twenty-five undergraduate students attended the event that included a dinner, panel discussion, and networking opportunities.

Women in STEMThis year’s theme focused on “Reflections of Success and How To Empower Yourself and Others.” Speakers included: Blanca Barquera, associate professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Biological Sciences and Chemistry and Biological Chemistry; Colleen Costello ’12, CEO and co-founder of Vital Vio, LLC; Catherine Forth ’87, past GE Global R&D executive and one of the founding members of the Women’s Fund of the Capital Region; Sarah McKinney ’91, business development manager at Microsoft; and Michelle Young ’93, Global Competency and Training Manager with ExxonMobil.

“One of our highest priorities is to attract more women and underrepresented minority students into engineering and other STEM disciplines,” said Barbara Ruel, director of diversity and women in engineering programs in the School of Engineering. “Exploring the challenges and opportunities in undergraduate education, and creating a culture of women mentoring women at Rensselaer is critical to student retention and advancement,” Ruel said. “Most importantly, connecting Rensselaer students, faculty, alumnae, and other practicing professionals with each other establishes a strong network and community of women who encourage each other to reach their potential as leaders and innovators in their chosen fields.”

At Rensselaer, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is an international society designed to encourage and support women in the pursuit of a professional career in the engineering and technological fields, through corporate interaction, community outreach, and social events, both on the local and national levels. Throughout the year, SWE offers many events focusing on professional development, networking, and outreach to young children. SWE is the largest nonprofit educational and service organization representing both student and professional women in engineering and technical fields.

The Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program, which was established in 1994, serves as a peer mentor program that matches first-year undergraduate female students who request a mentor with an upperclass female undergraduate student in the same or a related major.

The annual program is supported by funding from the Rensselaer School of Engineering Dean’s Office.