Alumni Alumni: The future is female: UMassD students, professionals celebrate women in STEM industries

Alumni Alumni: The future is female: UMassD students, professionals celebrate women in STEM industries
The future is female: UMassD students, professionals celebrate women in STEM industries

Over a dinner and engaging professional development workshop, Corsairs represented the blossoming future of STEM fields and six received a scholarship that supports their educational journeys.

Improv workshop & dinner
Students and professionals attend career development workshop presented by Improv Edge at recent Empowering Women in STEM Dinner.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), there is a mighty call for gender inclusivity that is bound to redefine these male-dominant industries as we know them. In hopes of creating a more equitable future for aspiring female STEM professionals, UMass Dartmouth’s College of Engineering stands at the forefront of this critical issue and actively works to bridge this gender gap with their knowledgeable faculty, extraordinary research opportunities, and rigorous academic programs.

In partnership with the Women in Defense – Greater Boston Chapter, UMass Dartmouth hosted the Empowering Women in STEM Dinner for current students and professionals to examine the present and bright future of STEM industries, one that is distinctly female. Attendees also enjoyed a professional development workshop by ImprovEdge that taught them about the power of first impressions, a perfect ice breaker for budding scholars sitting at a table of unfamiliar professionals.

“Improv Edge’s training techniques are very interactive, and it’s engaging work that can be enjoyed at both the student and industrial levels,” said Diane Phillips ’84, who is the manager for Boston Operations for Joint Research and Development (JRAD). “It’s a great means to be learning in an environment and connecting students and industry professionals at the same time. We want students to envision their future progression through these professionals that are at varying stages of their careers.”

Students, professionals at dinner & workshop
Guests were thrilled by how interactive Improv Edge's workshop was and actively participated in all activities.

During the professional development workshop, Improv Edge implemented a strategy called CLEAR (Connect, Listen, Engage, Align, Respect). Mimicking real-life scenarios, professionals and students joined forces on stage and were separated in the room to practice this introduction strategy, putting their improv skills to good use and transforming their professionalism. By the workshop’s end, the room buzzed with an unmatched vibrant energy, meaningful conversation, and effortless laughter.

Evidence-based practices to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM include communicating the societal impact of STEM to students, exposing students to female scientist and engineer role models, and developing positive relationships between students and female STEM practitioners. We implemented those practices in our workshop today!” said Dean of the College of Engineering, Jean VanderGheynst, PhD. "The short-term outcome of our efforts will be improved retention of young women in STEM and the long-term outcome will be U.S. science and engineering workforce demographics representing those of the U.S. population.”

To ensure women are fairly represented across all STEM industries, scholarships are available to support the academic aspirations of our hard-working scholars, like the Women in Defense – Greater Boston Chapter Scholarship that champions female STEM students’ educations. This year’s recipients of this scholarship were honored with a brief ceremony after dinner was served. Recipients include Arianna Buenrostro ’25, Marcia Cardoso ’27, Nicole Lobo ’27, Yislayn Ramirez ’27, Lisbeth Rivas ’26, and Chloe Shirikjian ’26.

Recipients of WID scholarship
Scholarship recipients proudly pose with their award certificates alongside accredited engineering professionals.

“I’m the first in my family to go to college, so I was a little lost when I started at UMass Dartmouth,” said scholarship recipient and computer science student Nicole Lobo ’27. “I had Dean Jean there to make me feel like I belonged here and like I had all of the support in the world. This scholarship leaves me with fewer financial worries and allows me to fully immerse myself in my academic pursuits.”

As exhibited by this event, UMass Dartmouth makes opening doors of opportunity and breaking down financial barriers for their scholars a priority. The dynamic, collaborative atmosphere within the room was nothing short of inspiring and a clear indicator that the UMassD community is poised to lead change across all STEM industries. For our aspiring female engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and doctors, they will see a brighter, more inclusive future.