New Mexico Tech President Stephen G. Wells, third from right, greets students and staff from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah schools attending a career fair in Fidel Student Center March 25 as part of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Region 3 Conference.
Courtesy photo

New Mexico Tech students had the opportunity to learn from women who have blazed trails through STEM fields to find personal and professional success.

Sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Socorro Branch and the NMT American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Chapter as part of its Region 3 Conference, “Voices of Women: Pathways to Resilience in Promoting Indigenous Success” featured five women scientists, engineers, and professionals who shared their life stories and the challenges, barriers, and opportunities they encountered journeying through academia and corporate careers.

Lois Wardell, a descendant of the Osage Nation, who received her Ph.D. in earth and environmental science from NMT, described her work on seven continents as a senior space test and evaluation engineer with Galapagos Federal Systems in Colorado Springs. Having a solid STEM foundation with basic math and science skills is her “secret sauce” allowing her a career “having fun and doing amazing things.” Wardell said that rock climbing has taught her resilience.

“The No. 1 enemy of resilience is fear of failure,” she said. “Don’t ever let fear be a part of career decisions you make.”

Zabari-Obyoni Bell, Diné and a Torreon, New Mexico, native, is a 2022 biology graduate of Navajo Technical University. She described how homesick she was at first for the Southwest while working as a post-baccalaureate research fellow in a lab in the Department of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her attitude changed after attending the national AISES Conference in Palm Springs, California, in October 2022, realizing that she didn’t have to change herself to be successful.

“I’m learning how to incorporate my culture into an Ivy League school,” she said. “I balance culture with science. My love of identity helps keep me grounded.”

The panel discussion was one of many WomenFest 2023 activities. Other events included a career fair and golf scramble tournament for American Indian students from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah; music, dancing, and speakers; and an expo featuring women-owned businesses and clubs promoting health and well-being, crafts, food and vendors including those selling jewelry, plants, and baked goods; sessions on topics such as mandala painting and tribal drumming. Other highlights included a reception for the artists whose works have been on display during Women’s History Month and a free concert by The String Queens, a Washington, D.C.-based instrumental trio.