Welcome to the 2023 Women Empowered in STEM (weSTEM) Conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign!

The Graduate Committee of the Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) is excited to host the eleventh annual weSTEM conference! GradSWE works as a supportive community to advocate for women and gender minorities in higher education. We believe a diverse and balanced workforce is necessary to tackle society’s greatest challenges. GradSWE strives to make this workforce a reality one conference at a time.

The conference provides a forum where current and aspiring STEM leaders can connect, motivate, and inspire each other to develop solutions for the future technological challenges of society. Our hope is that you leave today feeling rejuvenated and reignited with the next stages of your career. We are excited to welcome accomplished professionals in STEM to share their experiences in-person with over 100 attendees across 16 departments at Illinois and 6 other universities across the country.

We would like to thank all of the individuals who have generously given their time to help with the organization of this conference as well as the numerous partners whose support makes this event possible. Finally, we would like to thank all of you, the speakers and attendees, for making this conference a success.

Enjoy the conference!

The weSTEM Organizing Committee
Justine Paul, weSTEM Director
Kathleen Oolman, GradSWE Director
Richa Ghosa, weSTEM Speaker Co-Coordinator
Jiachun Shi, weSTEM Speaker Co-Coordinator
Suchi Vijayaraghavan, weSTEM Logistics Coordinator
Laura Gray, weSTEM External Funding Coordinator
Mashiat Hossain, weSTEM Attendee Relations Coordinator
Kaylee Tucker, weSTEM Publicity Coordinator
Apurva Godbole, weSTEM Social Media Coordinator

conference schedule




9:00 - 9:50 am
Registration and Sponsor Booths
Coffee, Tea, Pastries

9:20 - 9:35 am
Speaker Photo
9:45 - 10:10 am
Opening Remarks
Lisa R. Abston
Illinois Ballroom
10:10 - 11:00 am
Opening Keynote
“Redefining Success: the untold stories of a Latinx Doctora in science and academia”
Vanessa González-Peréz
Illinois Ballroom
11:15 am - 12:00 pm
Session One Talks
“My Experience with LGBTQ+ STEM Advocacy”
Francine Marie Reyes Vega
Innovation Room
“My Career Path to the National Labs: A Cognitive Scientist’s Perspective” Mallory Stites
Excellence Room

“Networking 101”
Ashlee N. Ford Versypt
Knowledge Room
12:00 - 1:00 pm
Illinois Ballroom

1:00 - 3:00 pm
Illinois Ballroom
3:10 - 3:55 pm
Panel Sessions
“Making an Impact: The Power of Outreach”
Tracy Nguyen, O.D., Bridget Ingram, Colleen Lewis
Innovation Room
“Tips for Finding the Right Career Path”
Katie Philpott, Melissa Bogusch, Meg Donaldson
Excellence Room
“Overcoming Imposter Syndrome”
Olga Mironenko, Cecilia Leal, Rebecca M. Reck, Ph.D.
Knowledge Room
3:55 - 4:10 pm
Networking/ Break
4:15 - 5:10 pm
Session Two Talks
Cross Cultural Pespectives in Career Development

“From Engineer to Executive - An Immigrant’s Career Journey in the West from Global Manufacturing to Big Tech”
Dianne Huiwen Eldridge

“Navigating the Workplace as a Minority Female”
Radhika Nagarkar
Innovation Room
Reflections on Career Development

“Careers Beyond the Bench: Journalism, Editing, and Science Communication”
Christine Herman

“From Pre-Med to Beamline Scientist: Evolution of Career Goals”
Leighanne Gallington
Excellence Room
“Interviewing for and Starting an Academic Position”
Alexa Kuenstler, Susan Leggett, Megan L. Matthews
Knowledge Room
5:10 - 5:40 pm
Illinois Ballroom
5:40 - 6:30 pm
Closing Keynote
“Together for STEM”
Cristina Thomas
Illinois Ballroom
6:30 - 6:40 pm
Closing Remarks
Kathleen Oolman
Illinois Ballroom

attending virtually?

weSTEM 2023 is also available virtually. While the conference will not be available synchronously, there will be voice and screen recordings of talks for participants who are not able to join in person.

When the recordings are available, you will recieve informatino about how to access them.

breakout sessions

What is a breakout session?
A breakout session is a short small group discussion on topics relating to the conference in a more intimate setting. These discussions provide additional opportunities for attendees to network with conference speakers and invited guests.

How does this work?
There will be a number of short breakout sessions. Every table will have a discussion leader and a suggested topic. During each session, attendees may freely choose discussion topics based on personal interests. To help facilitate the best possible discussion, please keep the number of attendees to about eight per table.

What if I want to participate in multiple sessions?
You’re in luck! There are seven 15-minute sessions, so you will have the opportunity to participate in seven unique discussions. Each table’s topic stays the same throughout the sessions. Feel free to stick around at a table if you want to keep talking about the topic!

breakout session tables




Having Your Own Support Network
Building Your Career Horizontally
Joining a Professional or Volunteer Organization Related to your Field/ Leveraging Outreach and Networking for Career Development
Navigating Interdisciplinary Projects, Teams, and/or Careers
Intersecting Identities/ Being Out in STEM
Personal Branding Strategy to Win Careers
Tips on Having Difficult Conversations with your Peers and Advisors
Transition from Being a Student to a Professional/ Getting Started in Industry
Securing a Faculty Position
Utilizing Social Media in Academia
Productivity Hacking Techniques
Being the Only One in the Room
The Importance of Hobbies
Being a Virtual Worker
Being Credible and Building Credibility
Being Friendly vs Too Friendly: Setting the Boundaries Between Students and Faculty