Brookdale Community College’s Women in Engineering Science and Technology (W.E.S.T.) Club proudly hosted its 12th Annual Celebration of Women in S.T.E.M., marking a significant return to in-person events after three years of virtual gatherings due to the pandemic. This year’s event was especially meaningful, bringing together students, alums, faculty, and industry professionals to celebrate and discuss the achievements and challenges of women in S.T.E.M. fields.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Arianne Pathak, one of the advisors for the W.E.S.T. Club, and Jacqueline Bikker expressed their excitement about the in-person reunion. “It’s lovely to see all of the students and alumni in the room. I want to give a round of applause for being in person,” Pasek said.

The evening started with welcome remarks from James Crowder, Dean of the S.T.E.M. Institute, who emphasized the importance of diversity in S.T.E.M. “Diversity in S.T.E.M. is absolutely the biggest problem in the field, bar none,” Crowder stated. He also highlighted a recent National Science Foundation grant for automotive engineering focused on electric vehicles, which aims to increase women’s representation in this predominantly male industry.

The highlight of the event was an alum panel featuring four distinguished graduates who shared their journeys and insights:

Maria Camencia: Graduated from Brookdale in 2018 with an Associate of Science Degree in Engineering and is now at the Stevens Institute of Technology pursuing biomedical engineering. She is a Clinical Research and Development Intern at Colgate-Palmolive and plans to pursue a master’s in pharmaceutical manufacturing post-grad this spring.

Jenna Horowitz: Jenna was a WEST co-president while completing her biology associate degree at Brookdale. She continued to earn her bachelor’s in biology at Stockton University, with a concentration in biotechnology and minors in chemistry and mathematics. While working towards her master’s in molecular biology from Montclair State, she was a graduate assistant instructing undergraduate laboratories. Jenna now works at the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, conducting postmortem genetic testing.

Emma Dangler: Emma was a co-president of WEST during her time at Brookdale. She graduated in 2018 with an Associate of Science Degree in General Science and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from Stockton University. She has been an environmental compliance supervisor at Clean Earth in Carteret, NJ, for nearly three years.

Svetlana Polyanskiy: Holds a teaching degree from Ukraine and a computer science degree from Polytechnic Institute of New York University. She has worked for nearly 20 years in cybersecurity and identity management at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The panelists discussed various topics, including overcoming imposter syndrome, the importance of networking, and the challenges women face in S.T.E.M. fields. Maria highlighted the significance of networking, saying, “It’s really about making connections and putting yourself out there.”

Crowder’s remarks also resonated with the audience, mainly his focus on inclusivity and the importance of creating a supportive environment for women in S.T.E.M. “We envision a field without a glass ceiling, and we want to get enough women in the field immediately so that there is no ceiling for anyone,” he said.

The event concluded with the announcement of the Barbara Tozzi Scholarship recipients. This scholarship, named in honor of Barbara Tozzi, a former math professor and co-founder of the W.E.S.T. Club, awards $500 to women pursuing Education or S.T.E.M. degrees. This year’s recipients were Ava Marie Marszalek and Jessica Polyanskiy, who were recognized for their dedication and achievements.

The celebration ended on a high note with a networking session, allowing attendees to connect with peers, alums, and professionals. The event was a testament to the W.E.S.T. Club’s commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive community for women in S.T.E.M. at Brookdale Community College.

WEST Alum panel and scholarship recipients