April 13, 2023

By Alaina Uricheck ’23

JoAnn Pochekailo '77 Suzich JoAnn Pochekailo ’77 SuzichJoAnn Pochekailo ’77 Suzich admitted that her career trajectory was not typical.

Having just earned her doctorate from Purdue University, the Susquehanna alumna worked briefly for a biochem startup before heading back to the East Coast where she took a job with another small biotech company – MedImmune, which was later bought by AstraZeneca. She spent more than 30 years with the company before joining Immunocore as its head of research. The company specializes in the development of drugs to treat cancer and infectious and autoimmune diseases.

Suzich was the keynote speaker at Susquehanna’s Women’s Leadership Symposium in Washington, D.C., where more than 30 students spent two days of networking and learning alongside alumni.

“I always focused on the work,” Suzich said when asked how she advocated for her own professional growth. “I never went into advocacy discussions with, ‘I deserve a higher position.’ I was always arguing from the point of view of what the work needs, and career advancement came from that.”

In addition to her work with Immunocore, Suzich sits on the board of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, a nonprofit organization promoting global vaccine development and access, and is a member of Susquehanna’s Board of Trustees.

“Like many other alumnae, JoAnn shared stories and advice I can see myself using in my future career,” said Charlotte Horvat ’25, a communication studies and management double major and minor in the Honors Program. “Women are stronger together, and it was reassuring and exciting to see female leaders supporting each other.”

Students attending the Women’s Leadership Symposium could customize a part of their experience by selecting which organization to visit: the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service or Healthcare Ready. They met with alumnae who worked there and received a tour before regrouping at the U.S. Patent and Trade Office to participate in an innovation challenge.

The symposium programming was especially useful for seniors heading into their final few weeks of college because it provided them with a chance to work on their résumés, interviewing and networking skills, and make valuable connections with alumnae in their field.

“Being surrounded by powerful, funny, smart and beautiful women showed me the power we truly have,” said Mackenzie Lloyd ’24, a marketing major. “I was able to work on my résumé and improve my interview skills, but my favorite part was meeting new people and networking.”

“It was incredibly empowering to meet so many alumnae and receive advice on networking, leadership, self-advocacy and launching my career,” said Natalie Shirk ’23, an international business major with a minor in Spanish studies.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative is supported by the Signe S. Gates ’71 and Dawn G. Mueller ’68 Women’s Leadership Fund, which was endowed in 2019 and connects female students with alumnae who inspire them to pursue leadership positions within their chosen fields. The annual Women’s Leadership Symposium is a selective event. Students must apply to be considered for acceptance, and then, upon acceptance, complete one of two preparatory sessions before the symposium takes place.