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STEM UP Students of Color to host panel on Apr. 5

STEM UP Students of Color is gearing up to present “Succeeding in the STEM and Medical Fields as a Person of Color” discussion panel at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 5, in Edison Hall, Room 201.

Maria Hernandez Campos is a chemistry student and President of STEM UP. As for the organization’s objectives, she explained, “STEM UP Students of Color is a new organization on our campus dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion within the School of Science. As a first-generation and minority student, finding a supportive community with shared academic aspirations and backgrounds was critical to me. Our club’s primary objective is to establish a welcoming environment for all students, not just those of color, to unite and encourage one another to pursue our passions.”

On the day of the event, students will arrive at the Atrium in Edison to mingle and enjoy appetizers. “Students will see STEM UP club members in T-shirts passing out backpacks filled with ‘SWAG’ for the first 100 students to attend, and taking photos of the speakers as they speak with students. The students will have the chance to engage with the speakers during this time, or with other faculty and administrators attending,” explained Sandra Zak, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics and co-advisor of STEM UP.

STEM UP’s panel event will have feature speakers, including Dr. Tiffany Medley, Senior Client Manager at Tetra Tech; Paola Toro Esq, Environmental Lawyer at Bressler Amery & Ross; Mr. Zachary Lewis, Founder and President of Lewis Environmental Consulting; and Dr. Laura Branigan, dentist and small business owner.

Zak, along with co-advisor Karen Pesce, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, found speakers for the event earlier this year. “Dr. Pesce and I reached out to our friends, and we received suggestions,” Zak began. “We were looking for a variety of areas in STEM if possible, but open to as many areas as possible. All of the speakers that have agreed to attend are quite accomplished in a variety of different ways, which we hope will speak to as many of our students of color as possible.”

Other preparations for the event started weeks in advance. “In preparation for this event, my role as president involved collaborating with various faculty members, our executive board, and our advisors,” added Hernandez Campos. “Together with our e-board, we worked on finding the ideal location, handled decorations and setup, and created marketing strategies for the panel. Additionally, I took it upon myself to personally invite the department chairs and the dean of the School of Science to attend and support our event, as well as the peer mentors, EOF representatives, and other campus clubs.”

The event is funded by a Diversity and Inclusion Grant provided by Monmouth University. “In the summer of 2023, Dr. Pesce, myself, and the e-board for the STEM UP Club, applied and secured a Diversity and Inclusion Grant. These funds have allowed our club to be the only club involved in organizing this event,” said Zak.

This event is projected to be an impactful, important, and educational experience for all attendees. “The significance of this event lies in its diverse lineup of speakers, each coming from unique professional and academic backgrounds. This makes it particularly valuable for all our students, especially those venturing into STEM fields. It offers invaluable insights into various career paths and provides networking opportunities with industry professionals. Moreover, it facilitates open dialogue and guidance on navigating similar career trajectories. Representation is extremely important both in our campus as well as in the STEM fields, and with this panel, we hope to inspire future professionals by presenting relatable role models,” Hernandez Campos explained.

For those who cannot attend this year’s panel, the club advisors and members plan to make this an annual event. “This will be our first year having an event of this nature. We fully intend to make this a yearly event, with the topic and speakers changing,” concluded Zak.