As Loretta Amaral took more and more engineering, mathematics and other science courses at Essex County College, she noticed that the number of women in each class was getting smaller. “I felt it was just not happening for women overall; no one was pushing us,” said the Mechanical Engineering major.
So Loretta figured it was time to get more women interested in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. “I got a few friends in some of my classes and this past fall we started the Women in STEM Club.”
Loretta, who started taking classes at neighboring NJIT this month while she also completes her Associate degree requirements, knows firsthand the opportunities available for women in STEM programs when you know where to look.
It should also be noted that Loretta, of Linden, was the only woman in one of her first STEM-based NJIT classes this month.
At the College’s recent STEM Alumni Information Session attending by 12 grads and more than 70 current students, Loretta talked about her experiences last fall at a Society of Women Engineers (SWE) she attended in Texas. She said the networking alone was worth attending the SWE gathering. “And Essex needs to be a part of it,” Loretta added.
To that end, Loretta said that she hopes the College’s Women in STEM Club can receive SWE approval. “We have to prove that there are enough women at Essex interested for SWE to approve our club. SWE approval would be good for the College and especially our students.” She anticipates SWE making its decision by mid-February.
SWE was founded in 1950 and is based in Chicago. The website states that SWE “gives women a unique place and voice within the engineering industry.”
There are currently 20 club members and Loretta hopes for that number to grow as the semester progresses. In addition to Loretta, the other officers are Yazmin A. Villalba (vice president), Alyssa Maquiling (treasurer), and Yarihsa Chicmana (secretary).
One way is seeking women to participate in SWE’s next regional conference on April 20-22 in Providence, Rhode Island. Questionnaires are being distributed to all STEM students, men as well as women, seeking interest in attending the upcoming conference.
Loretta credited Dr. Dmitriy Kalantarov, Chairperson of Engineering Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science for “performing an amazing job supporting the club. We are very thankful for his partnership with (club advisor) Professor Ines Figueiras.” She added that he will most likely attend the conference in Rhode Island with the Essex students.
The club is also conducting a series of fundraisers on campus, such as bake sales.
“Loretta is a true leader who does all she can to give back to ECC,” said Mathematics Professor Figueiras. “Through her leadership, the Women in STEM Club was created and we are in the process of establishing an affiliation with SWE. Both the Club and the affiliation will greatly benefit our students, especially our female students who are underrepresented in STEM fields.”
As Loretta nears the end of her time at Essex, she will pass the club leadership role to another student. But one legacy that Loretta is leaving at Essex is sure to remain on campus. That is the impressive “Internships Wall” located in the Blue Area (2nd Floor). Loretta has painstakingly affixed more than two dozen posters and flyers from other schools and companies announcing a wide spectrum of internships.
She regularly updates the wall as new internship opportunities come in.
Additional information on the Women in STEM Club is at www.womeninstemclub.com