Annual Womxn in STEM summit rises as scheduled, despite challenges

10th Annual Women in STEM Summit. Heal Together, Rise Together. March 1-5

Interim Associate Dean of Student Affairs Rosemary Ampuero had a major task ahead of her. Since it launched in 2012, NYU Tandon’s annual Womxn’s Summit had become one of the most anticipated events on the calendar, and in 2021 Ampuero found herself at the helm.

With years of experience in helping former Associate Dean of Student Affairs Anita Farrington organize the Summit, she knew just where to turn: the dedicated staff of the Office of Student Affairs and Student Activities. It was on all-hands-on-deck effort, and Randi Amalfatano, Brittney Anne Bahlman, Mike Burgo, Alethia Orbih, Deanna Rayment, and Sarah Shields came through, contributing ideas and seeing them to fruition. From March 1 to March 4, they mounted a successful virtual Summit that exceeded all expectations.

The theme, "Heal Together, Rise Together," acknowledged that the past year had presented its share of adversity, but celebrated the fact that the Tandon community had forged a way through with tenacity, fortitude, and flexibility. Throughout the week — which kicked off with a Vinyasa Yoga class taught on Zoom by alum Sally Choi (’17) — participants discussed how 2020 had changed their lives and the importance of embracing resilience.


A challenging employment landscape

One panel discussion, moderated by Bahlman, the director of Student Affairs and Student Activities, featured recent alumni and focused on finding and starting a new job during COVID-19. Much of what they learned during the pandemic translates well to any challenging time.

Shrishti Bhatnagar, who earned a master’s degree in Management of Technology in 2020 and now works as a consulting analyst at World Wide Technology, says that when preparing a resume, always include academic projects. “I had done a student project on New York City traffic violations,” she recalls, and while it wasn’t wholly relevant to every job I applied for, it’s the one thing almost everyone was fascinated by and asked me about.

Ruby Pittman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2020 in Business and Technology Management, advises Tandon students to take advantage of the many resources that the Office of Career Services can provide but cautions that you need to be open-minded and flexible. “You might be able to guess by the trees outside my window that I’ve landed in the Seattle area,” she said during the Zoom event. “And while it might not have been where I initially envisioned, it’s been wonderful.”

Florence Tong, a former student government president now working as a business analyst  at Synk, a cybersecurity company, admitted that it took her almost a year to find a job amidst the pandemic, despite having several supportive networks to call upon. “Just keep networking,” she advised, “and never get discouraged!”

Alumni Womxn in STEM participants in zoom panel
Clockwise from upper left:  Director of Student Affairs and Activities Brittny Bahlman and alumni Ruby Pittman, Florence Tong, and Shrishti Bhatnagar


Making it through

The next event, “From Surviving to Thriving,” revolved around the importance of wellness — during COVID-19 or any tumultuous period. Moderated by Delia Salem, a counselor with NYU Wellness, the forum featured Christine P. Davie (’14), a senior consultant at Deloitte; Hannah Catbagan (’14), a construction engineer at the Port Authority of NY & NJ; and Asher Williams (’15), a presidential post-doctoral fellow at Cornell.

The alumnae opened up about the challenges of not only being women in STEM but in persevering throughout a difficult year. “It’s so important to discuss topics like this openly, but that sometimes doesn’t happen when women work in fields where they may be reluctant to show any vulnerability,” Shields, the assistant director of Student Activities, explained. “I think this is one of the most important events I’ve been involved with at Tandon, and I’m grateful our students had the chance to benefit from hearing these stories.”

The final event, “Embodying Resilience,” was moderated by Vice Provost and Professor Kris Day. In addition to ethnobotanist Rose Bear Don’t Walk and Calbeth Alaribe, the co-founder of Women in Global Health Nigeria, it featured Dean Jelena Kovačević. She praised the Tandon community for the ways in which it pulled together throughout the pandemic and told everyone: “We might feel we have no right to complain, because we made it through 2020 better than others. My daughter is a nurse, and after hearing some of her stories, I certainly feel that way. But what we’ve done has not been easy, and it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge that. It makes me even prouder of the way we’ve all supported each other during an admittedly difficult time.”