Serena Ngan knows a little something about inspiration. As president of DeSales University’s Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the medical studies major works to both inspire and to empower young women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, which have been historically male-dominated.
“I think it’s really important for you to see actual physical role models — women who embody who you want to become — to give you that motivation to keep going and pursue your goals,” says Ngan.
AWIS brings in guest speakers, holds seminars on advancements in STEM, and helps to educate Girl Scouts and local students through science demonstrations and other community service initiatives.
Recently, Ngan and nine other members of the club, along with Dr. Lara Goudsouzian, had the chance to see several real-life role models. They attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, where they heard from speakers including former First Lady Michelle Obama and Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.
“This is a group of women who are clearly going to be leaders in their fields,” says Goudsouzian, assistant professor of biology, who began the DeSales chapter of AWIS back in 2015. “I felt it was important for them to learn leadership skills because they are clearly on their way to becoming leaders.”
“Despite always hearing about this glass ceiling, these women have broken through that glass ceiling,” says Ngan. “Seeing women who can become leaders despite all the obstacles and all the discrimination that they might have faced, it was just really empowering.”
Mrs. Obama’s speech in particular stuck with Ngan: the former first lady spoke about her experience as a working mom while her husband was in the U.S. Senate, and about still finding the time to prioritize herself.
Ngan says the conference helped her to realize all of the opportunities she has to influence others and the value of stepping outside her comfort zone. “It was also a validation that my opinions and my ideas are valid,” she says.
The students were able to attend the conference thanks to a generous donation from Women for DeSales, a philanthropic giving circle that allows members to direct their dollars to fill funding gaps around campus. Without that funding, they never would have been able to attend.
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