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A Decade in the Making

February 12, 2022

@ I Hotel, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



weSTEM (Women Empowered in STEM) is a one-day conference designed to inspire and connect current and aspiring STEM leaders. It was started in 2013 by the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) at the University of Illinois.

Invited speakers will share experience and insight from their diverse career paths following a graduate degree in STEM. The conference features lectures, workshops, and breakout sessions that showcase successful career paths of women and men in STEM, and facilitate the discussion of topics unique to the graduate student experience. 

Click here to watch a video about weSTEM 2016! 

Please note all times listed are in Central Standard Time (CST).

Friday, February 11th


6:30-8:30 PM

Evening Welcome Reception

Networking reception with participants and conference speakers

Papa Del's Pizza Factory

1201 S Neil St.

Champaign, IL 61820

Saturday, February 12th​

9:00-9:50 AM



9:30 AM


(speakers and committee members)


9:50-10:10 AM

Opening Remarks

Welcome speech by founders of GradSWE Illinois

Samantha Knoll (Bayer Crop Science) & Sofie Leon (California State University, Fullerton)

Chancellor Ballroom

10:10-11:00 AM

Opening Keynote

"From Bioengineering to the C-Suite: Reflections on a Leadership Journey"

Catherine Ford Corrigan (Exponent)

Chancellor Ballroom

11:15 AM-12:00 PM

Session 1 Talks

“Examples from the Entertainment Industry and New Product Commercialization”

Mary Caruso Dailey (3M)

Innovation Room

“A Curiosity-Driven Career: How Agility Creates Opportunities”

Nerissa Draeger (LAM Research Corporation)

Excellence Room

“Catalyzing Career Throughput: A Data-
Driven Approach to Targeting Initiatives and Accelerating Female Inclusion”

Beata Kilos (Dow Chemical Company)

Loyalty Room

“Building and Sustaining Mentoring Programs”

Laura Biedermann (Sandia National Laboratories)

Chancellor Ballroom

12:00-12:55 PM

Lunch & Networking

Chancellor Ballroom

12:55-2:15 PM

Breakout Sessions

Chancellor Ballroom

2:30-3:15 PM

Panel Discussions

Panel 1: “Power in the Pivot”
Kerisha Bowen (Dentons)
Patricia Jones (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Carol (Yanjun) Bao (Abbvie Inc.)

Innovation Room

Panel 2: "What Career is Right for You? Academia vs Non-Academia”
Neera Jain (Purdue University)
Eleftheria Kontou (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
Nicole Kikendall (Argonne National Laboratory)

Excellence Room

Panel 3: “Mentoring: Mobilizing for Change and Advocacy”

Tyrslai Williams Carter (Louisiana State University)

Majaliwa Bass (Thomson Reuters)

Beata Kilos (Dow Chemical Company)

Loyalty Room

3:30-4:20 PM

Session 2 Talks

The Twists and Turns of a Dynamic Future
“Beyond the Bench: Translating Your Technical Skills to Pursue Your Passion”

Ashleigh Wright (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

"Zig-Zag: Lessons from a Non-Linear Career Path”

Asha-Dee Celestine (U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) & Auburn University)

Innovation Room

Engineering in Real Life: Skills and Knowledge for Success
“Failing Forward”

Keshia Ashe (Hampton University)

“Balancing Act: My Experience with Engineering and Motherhood”

Jill Hentges (Motorola Solutions)

Excellence Room

Challenging the Status Quo
“Building Radically Nourishing Scientific Spaces”

Nicole Cabrera Salazar (Movement Consulting)

“Allyship that Makes an Impact”

Candace Solomon-Strutz (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Loyalty Room

4:20-5:00 PM

Open Networking

Chancellor Ballroom

5:00-5:30 PM


Chancellor Ballroom

5:30-6:20 PM

Closing Keynote
"Resiliency: Succeeding Through Challenging Times"

Dianne Eldridge (Amazon Web Services)

Chancellor Ballroom

6:20-6:30 PM

Closing Remarks

Chancellor Ballroom

DSC07096 (1)
COVID Statement

COVID Statement

GradSWE at Illinois is committed to having a safe and healthy environment for the weSTEM 2022 conference.  

At this time, we are still planning for a fully in-person conference in the I-Hotel at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on February 12th, 2022. We are working closely with our venues and the University of Illinois to address the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic to provide a safe and meaningful conference experience. In order to do so, we have the following protocols in place.


Masks: All participants will be required to wear a face covering when not eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is recommending that all participants at university events wear an N95, KN95, or Level 3 surgical mask. We strongly recommend that all participants wear one of these types of masks for the duration of the conference.


Required COVID-19 Testing Prior to the Conference: Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, particularly due to the omicron variant, we are now requiring a negative COVID test prior to the conference from all attendees and speakers, regardless of vaccination status.

• UIUC Attendees

o Please get a test at one of the campus locations on Thursday, February 10th, if you plan on attending the social on Friday night, or on Friday, February 11th, if you plan on just attending the conference on Saturday, February 12th. You will need to show your Illinois App and negative test to enter both the social and the conference itself.


•Other Testing Options:

o PCR Test: If you opt to take a PCR test, we ask that you provide proof of one taken up to 72 hours before the conference.

o Rapid Antigen Test: If you opt to use a rapid antigen test, we ask that you take it 24 hours before the conference or the day of the conference (if possible) and if attending the Friday social, before attending the social.

o At-home Test: If you use an at-home test, we ask that you take it the morning of the conference or prior to attending the social on Friday night. These COVID protocols are subject to change at any time up to the conference. If any changes occur, conference speakers and participants will be informed as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, please reach out to the weSTEM director, Kathleen Oolman, at


We hope to see you at weSTEM 2022! Stay safe and healthy! 

 -weSTEM 2022 planning committee 


REGISTRation is closed for 2022

Please contact Laura Gray with any questions.




Meet the Committee

Meet the committee


Partner with WESTEM 2022

Join us this year for our flagship initiative to inspire and motivate brilliant young women in STEM! With your partnership, you’ll gain unique recruiting access to the nation’s top graduate women in engineering.


























































Contact if you are interested in partnering with weSTEM 2022.

Industry Partnership packages

Department Partnership packages

PAST Partners

Exponent - bw
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