Seven distinguished graduates returned to campus on April 7 to meet with students, answer questions and provide some professional advice during the 7th annual WEST Career Dinner, hosted by Brookdale’s Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WEST) club.
The alumni – all female professionals currently working in a variety of STEM fields – participated in a panel discussion and provided attendees with an overview of their educational path, career experience, and some of their fondest memories as Brookdale students.
“I actually changed my major because of my involvement in WEST,” said panel member Glynnis Tan, who came to Brookdale as an aspiring graphic designer and today works as a bioinformatics research assistant at Robert Wood Johnson University. “I figured out that I can’t draw a real circle. But because of WEST – and, to be honest, also because of the DNA scene in the movie ‘Jurassic Park’ – I got started on the path that led me here today.”
Panelists also included Patrycja Bolewska, senior scientist for Roche Moleculor Solutions; Jessica Buck, business analyst with MedForce; Diana Voshchinsky, clinical data manager for Everest; Danica Moise, a dental assistant working toward a career in dentistry; Laura Ostar-Exel, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Rutgers University; and Amanda Sutton, operations analyst for Planalytics.
The program, emceed by WEST advisor and assistant mathematics professor Susan Monroe, also featured a celebratory dinner and plenty of networking opportunities for the dozens of students and Brookdale STEM Institute faculty in attendance.
“This is a really unpredictable journey,” said STEM Institute Dean Anoop Ahluwalia, addressing the current WEST club members.
“You don’t know where it leads, so don’t give up if you don’t see what is behind the bend or if the path looks too steep. Just keep plugging along. That’s what tonight is all about. You hear very different stories from so many very different people. No two people do the same thing the same way. To be comfortable in your own skin, that is what you will learn from these fabulous women here tonight…
“I am just so proud,” Ahluwalia added. “The mission of a community college is hard to beat. That’s where I got my start…To see students who have come through Brookdale and have gone this far already, I couldn’t be more proud.”
In addition to the professional advice and networking opportunities, the evening also served as a celebration of the WEST Club, which has offered support, mentorship, camaraderie and other services to female STEM students at Brookdale since 1994.
“It’s so valuable to have programs like this, which help get students ready for the real world, provide career advice or tips on available scholarships, and share the stories of what previous graduates have gone through,” said WEST Club president and forensic chemistry major Ikrom Ibrahim. “It helps to see alumni who have gone on to have success in so many different career fields. It says a lot about our school and our club.”
Those sentiments were echoed by first-year computer science major and new WEST member Samantha Moss, who said both the club and Monroe have been invaluable in helping her feel at home.
“Sue [Monroe] has been there a lot for me,” said Moss, a native of South Africa. “When I came here, I didn’t really know anyone in New Jersey. So I didn’t have anyone to get advice from or help me out. Sue has never even been my teacher, and she goes out of her way to help me with anything.”
Click here to learn more about Brookdale’s WEST Club.
Check out more photos of the 7th Annual WEST Career Dinner here.