May 06, 2020

Susquehanna’s Women’s Leadership Symposium has continued providing networking and mentoring opportunities for female students despite the campus’ closure in March.

Originally planned for Washington, D.C., the symposium included events with alumni from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Public Radio (NPR) and The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. Susquehanna’s Career Development Center instead moved the symposium online to Zoom.

During the session with NIH, student participants — whose majors spanned from biology to biochemistry to psychology — asked their alumni panelists how to choose their own career path.

“I think the biggest thing is to try as many things as you can. It’s a matter of finding out what makes you want to put your feet on the ground in the morning and get up and work long, hard hours,” said Pamela Gehron ’74 Robey, senior investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. “Being in a lab is not everybody’s cup of tea, but there are many different things that you can do that would draw upon your science backgrounds.”

Leslie Marshall ’02, preclinical product development scientist at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, weighed in on achieving work-life balance, saying she “paid her dues” early in her career, sometimes working 80-90 hours a week, before transitioning to a more traditional 40-hour workweek to spend time with her young son.

“Finding the right team of people and management who are supportive of your life is huge,” Marshall said.

Senior Anna Mykytyn, a biochemistry major and French minor, enjoyed the experience, saying it allowed her to hear from “hard-working women about their experiences in the STEM field.”

“As a senior moving on to a Ph.D. program after graduation, I greatly appreciated the advice these Susquehanna alumni had for me and the other students,” she said. “I will take the advice about choosing mentors, self-advocating and work-life balance with me as I transition to graduate school.”

Other participants included Maribeth Guarino ’17, law student at The Catholic University of America; Lois Heckler ’94 Lander, inquiry services manager at the NIH’s Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center; and Ainsley Rossitto ’13, podcast audience strategist at NPR.

“By being able to hear how another woman has succeeded in my dream field, I know that I can make it too,” said junior psychology major Alaina King. “I feel more prepared for the pace of schooling, the financial considerations and the importance of my undergraduate connections. Most importantly, I feel more motivated than ever to achieve my goals and provide this support for other women.”

The Women’s Leadership Symposium is funded by the Signe Gates ’71 and Dawn Mueller ’68 Women’s Leadership Fund.