Women’s History Month Conference Celebrates Women in STEM

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

Students of all majors and faculty from a variety of departments joined community leaders for the third annual Women’s History Month Conference April 2-4, sponsored by UTEP’s Women’s Studies Department and the honor society Iota Iota Iota (Triota).

Highlights of the 2013 conference included three plenary speakers and a screening of the award-winning documentary Miss Representation, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.Students were given the opportunity to connect with faculty and professionals who could help them achieve their career goals with guidance or resources through eight-minute mentoring sessions during the Women's History Month Conference April 2-4. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News ServiceStudents were given the opportunity to connect with faculty and professionals who could help them achieve their career goals with guidance or resources through eight-minute mentoring sessions during the Women's History Month Conference April 2-4. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News Service

“The goal is to celebrate Women's History Month by hosting an academic conference that showcases research related to gender issues by students and faculty,” said Lee Ann Westman, Ph.D., visiting professor of humanities and women's studies. “We try to follow the national theme for Women's History Month, which is celebrating women's accomplishments in the STEM fields for 2013.”

Almost two dozen breakout sessions spanned topics such as gender and popular culture, gender and technology, gender and military issues, workplace success for female engineers, women in corporate America, and gender issues in Mexico.

“Our long-term goal is to have the conference not just showcase the research that faculty and students at UTEP are doing, but [the research that is] being done in the region related to women,” Westman said. To that end, presentations by students from New Mexico State University were included in the program for the first time.

The first two years of the conference brought more than 50 presenters and speakers into the spotlight with more than 400 attendees learning from their presentations. The documentary screening marked a broad collaboration between UTEP organizations including Triota and the Women’s History Month (WHM) Conference Committee, plus community entities including the El Paso League of Women Voters and the El Paso Women's Bar Association.

“It marked a unique ‘town and gown’ collaboration for us and we are looking forward to developing relationships with women’s groups in the community,” Westman said.

The Women’s History Month Conference was also an endorsed part of UTEP’s Centennial Celebration.

Both undergraduate and graduate students were groomed for success and future public speaking with their conference presentations and a workshop offered by the conference committee in March. The best student paper award – recently renamed in honor of Moira Murphy, Ph.D., a member of the UTEP faculty and WHM conference committee who died in March – was awarded to Maria E. Romero. UTEP students Mirna Nayeli Acevedo and Stephanie Moreno were recognized with the Woman of Valor and Woman of UTEP awards and scholarships.

The conference opened the afternoon of April 2 with a presentation by Sara Williams, who served as the Dive Operations Training officer at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, preparing astronauts to conduct space walks. A luncheon held on April 3 brought attendees and presenters together to hear advice from keynote speaker Deborah Zuloaga, president and CEO of the United Way of El Paso County and a UTEP alumna. That evening, Jessica Pizaña Roberts demonstrated her body image-oriented performance art at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts.

One afternoon, students were given the opportunity to connect with faculty and professionals who could help them achieve their career goals with guidance or resources through eight-minute mentoring sessions.

“We really want to plant the seed that networking is very important, as is following up with a person that you meet because you never know where that connection can take you,” said Shannon Osborne, student leadership coordinator for the Student Engagement and Leadership Center.