Women in STEM panel comes to university

By Staff Writer Taylor Simpson

The university’s College of Arts and Sciences will host a panel of graduate women in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering careers for this semester’s Sunseri Speaker series Oct. 26.

The Sunseri series is an opportunity to host a professional speaker who showcases the bridge between the science community with the creative community, said Carmen Burkhalter, dean of UNA COAS, who helped organize the event.

“I want attendees to know they can do anything, that success is limited only by a person’s imagination and if you dream big, you will achieve big,” Burkhalter said.

The event will take place from 2 to 3:15 p.m. with a reception to follow until 5 p.m. in room 136 of the Science and Technology Building.

The event is free and open both to UNA students, faculty, staff and the public.

Burkhalter said she hopes women from local high schools will come learn about opportunities for women in STEM careers.

Attendees will have an opportunity to speak and network with the panelists, Burkhalter said.

The panelists will include graduates from different disciplines at various stages in their careers.

Dean Burkhalter selected the panelists and the COAS ambassadors submitted the questions they will answer.

“What’s great is they all love UNA and are very humble in their successes,” she said.

Leshan Kimbrough, assistant professor of industrial hygiene, will moderate the discussion.

Panelists include Lacey Reinoehl,  the vice president of customer experience at Lojix Software LLC; Jessica Williams, an environmental health and safety engineer for 3M in Decatur; Hannah Hopkins, a software developer for NASA; Anne Whitaker, current president and CEO of KNOW Bio and Respiratory LLC; and Deborah Hellums, the director of fertilizer research at the International Fertilizer Development Center, according to biographies published on UNA’s COAS Orgsync.

The series has been part of campus events since Spring 2016.

The series is made possible by a donation from UNA alumnus David Sunseri in honor of his late sister Jennifer Leigh Sunseri.

“Jennifer was significant in (David Sunseri’s) life in demonstrating positivity, fortitude, commitment and kindness,” she said.

Junior Jessica Lenz said the event could be empowering for women.

“An event like this could give women the confidence not to be discouraged about working in the sciences, (and) to be bold and take charge in whatever field they desire,” she said.

Lenz said she hopes the panel will inspire younger students.

“When you look traditionally at the workforce in STEM disciplines, there has been a gap between the number of men and the number of women going into STEM disciplines,” Burkhalter said.

Sophomore Cayman Gardner said the panel is an opportunity to discuss the efforts of all women in STEM.

“This (event) is very productive for the community and the university alike to lift the veil off these largely male dominated fields,” he said.

Burkhalter said UNA has had a long history of successful women graduating and going into STEM careers.

“I wanted to highlight that with this event so that the next generation of women in college can understand that there are great pioneers, even here at UNA, that have gone before them and not to give up,” she said.

Due to limited seating, students who wish to attend should RSVP via https://tinyurl.com/STEMPanel-UNACOAS.

The UNA College of Arts and Sciences Facebook page will stream the event live for those who cannot attend, but wish to see the panel’s discussion.

For more information, visit the UNACOAS Facebook page.