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2013 Athena Pinnacle Awards Nominees - Educator

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WINNER: Saura Naderi
UCSD Outreach Director for NSF Variability Program; Founder, myLab Program
Calit2, UCSD

Combining engineering, art and technology with hands-on experience, the myLab Program was launched in 2009 by Naderi. Working closely with university colleagues and nonprofit partners, myLab provides workshops for UC San Diego undergraduates and K-12 students in underserved areas of San Diego. Housed in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), myLab was developed to inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators. By leveraging relationships with community and business leaders, Naderi is helping meet critical gaps in the education system in an unconventional way. Now supported in part by Calit2 and local tech giants Qualcomm and ViaSat, Naderi began the program providing her own transportation to a handful of young African-American girls from low-income housing in Southeast San Diego.

At the beginning of every myLab program, participants are asked how they feel about engineering as a career choice. On average, less than 20 percent of the young women indicate interest in STEM fields. After completing a workshop or class series, more than 80 percent of participants express interest in STEM-related career fields. The “Girls’ Hat Day Workshop” includes women engineers from ViaSat who join Naderi to teach hands on robotics classes for girls ages 7-14. Such programs provide platforms for both youth and undergrads to increase their self-confidence and expand their career aspirations.

Naderi helped found a Jr. NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) chapter for San Diego. She received a White House Award as a Champion of Change in 2011 for doing extraordinary things in the community to innovate, educate and build a better America. She works closely with the San Diego Science Alliance’s BeWISE and has close alliances with Qualcomm’s QWise (Women in Science and Engineering) and ViaSat’s VPartners.

Lara Dickens, Shari Duran, Rachel MacManus, Chelsea Smith-Carmichael, Hilde van den Bergh

These outstanding women individually merit recognition for their efforts promoting STEM programs. As a team, they provide students and mentees an incomparable combination of passion, expertise and experience in STEM education. Dickens, who loved teaching science through the Americorps program, got her teaching credential and teaches physics. Duran initially taught middle school life science and art, then transitioned to teaching 3D design at the high school level. MacManus wanted to inspire passion of science in students and has pursued her teaching career in this field. Through her grandfather, Smith-Carmichael fell in love with math and science and was further inspired as a BE WiSE member. She discovered a passion that led to her major in chemical engineering, which she now uses as an employee of Northrop Grumman. As a student, van den Bergh taught SDSU physics labs and interned in Cymer’s laser testing department. Her career started with a position at General Atomics, where she assisted in modeling and testing the electromagnetic launcher for aircraft carriers.

As a team, the nominees led the BE WiSE (Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering, a program of the San Diego Science Alliance) ISS Academy. The experiment was one of eight student-designed devices deployed to NASA’s U.S. National Lab aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment traveled via SpaceX, the first commercial vehicle to dock with ISS and spent one month in orbit traveling approximately 15 million miles at an altitude of about 250 miles above the Earth. The nominees mentored/directed 15 girls from San Diego County high schools to conceive, design, engineer and program a micro-experiment. An identical control experiment was performed on Earth. The experiment was deployed in February.

Mary Ann Beyster
Foundation for Enterprise Development

After graduating Cal Poly with an engineering degree, Beyster worked as an engineer at HP. She went on to roles in technology management at SRI, CH2M Hill and vice president of business development at SAIC, before taking on her current role as president of the Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED). The FED provides small business mentoring and support services, such as DARPA’s SBIR technology transfer support program, along with advocating entrepreneurial employee ownership in science and technology through granting programs, media productions and events.

Most recently, Beyster produced a film entitled "We the Owners" that "hopes to educate and inspire the next generation of business leaders, educators, and students about the ‘art of the possible’ in business through highly inclusive employee participation.”

In addition to the FED pledging financial support for the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge, a student-run entrepreneurial educational and startup investment organization, Beyster has leant her entrepreneurial expertise to several generations of student leaders. As a mentor and speaker, she has spread her enthusiasm for entrepreneurship to hopeful entrepreneurs at UCSD.

With the Foundation for Enterprise Development, Beyster created a fellowship program for researchers in diverse fields of study, with a inclusive approach to the application process. As a result, nearly half of all the research fellows are women. Beyster brings in groups of children with the Birch Aquarium and the Natural History Museum volunteer program, in order to give them early exposure to science.

Christine Brady
Americas Foundation

Brady is the president of the Americas Foundation and founder of La Esperanza, a kindergarten, elementary and high school in Tijuana, as well as the La Rosa Blanca Summer Design/Build Organic Architecture program. She has achieved her success through dogged persistence in the face of adverse circumstances that include working in a ciudad perdida -- a populated region without public utilities or public recognition -- nonstop negative publicity about the city of Tijuana, limited financial support, and cultural misunderstanding. Over 24 years the La Esperanza schools, which provide scholarships to talented, intelligent, financially disadvantaged children to study sciences, the arts, and ecology along with their basic education program, have educated thousands of children and provided employment for hundreds of women.

Brady founded, directs and teaches the Summer Design/Build Program that teaches alternative building techniques in the sculptured building design and construction. She is a recognized expert in the sculptured, concrete construction process, and has worked with alternative and recycled materials for construction. She directs monthly volunteer projects for young engineers and architects to gain field experience with these techniques.

Brady is a leader in the nonprofit world at the San Diego/Tijuana border. As president of the Americas Foundation, she has worked with a myriad of associations to support the establishment of educational social services on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. The La Esperanza schools themselves are a model of a social institution in such an area, Colonia. The work involves coordinating volunteers from Rotary clubs, community foundations, fledgling Mexican Civil Associations, churches, arts foundations, local public works boards, the American Institute of Architects and Soroptimist Clubs. The La Esperanza schools require parents to participate in volunteer activities so students have examples of community service.

Barbara Edwards, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Math for America San Diego

Edwards’ career has focused on the development of educational and professional opportunities for young people from low-income families and disadvantaged backgrounds. After nine years as a high school teacher, Edwards joined UCSD Extension in 1991 where she began developing university partnerships with local school districts. In collaboration with colleagues from both K-12 and higher education, she designed, secured funding and coordinated the activities of three major professional development programs: the Algebraic Thinking Institute, the Principals Executive Program and the California History Social Science Project. All focused on improving teaching and learning in our region’s high-need schools.

In 2000, Edwards moved to UCSD CREATE (Center for Research in Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence) to serve as the Coordinator of Teacher Professional Development. She worked with the UCSD partnership schools (including The Preuss School and Gompers Charter School) where she harnessed the university resources to help improve the quality of instruction. Simultaneously, she worked on her doctorate in Teaching and Learning, which she received in 2007 from UCSD. In 2008, she co-founded and became the Executive Director of Math for America San Diego, a consortium of three universities (CSU San Marcos, SDSU, and UCSD) and five school districts.

MfA SD identifies, trains, and retains the highest quality and most-promising math teachers in area schools. The organization supports girls and young women by identifying outstanding young women who are excellent in mathematics and are considering a career in teaching and provide them five-year fellowships that include an annual stipend, extensive professional development, and an experienced teacher to serve as a mentor. In the past five years, they have given career development fellowships to 25 outstanding women (out of 43 total awarded).

Karen Haynes, Ph.D.
California State University San Marcos

Haynes has forged a unique and effective path to leadership — from social worker to university president — with professional turns in Malaysia and Egypt along the way. Her commitment to women’s issues began during her undergraduate years at Goucher, an all-women’s college in Maryland. Since then, she has demonstrated a sustained and continuing dedication to developing women leaders. Haynes is the third and longest-tenured president of Cal State San Marcos, a position she has held since 2004. In addition, she is one of only three women presidents in the California State University system. Her success in higher education is a rare feat, given that only 22 percent of university presidents are women in the United States.

A fierce advocate for developing women leaders within the academy, three of Haynes’ five vice presidents are women, and she frequently speaks with women’s groups throughout the CSUSM region. Within the last four years alone, she has been invited to nearly a dozen events and conferences, to share her personal experience as a female executive in higher education that has broken the glass ceiling.

Haynes is co-author of “A Dream and A Plan: A Woman’s Path to Leadership in Human Services,” an insightful and inspirational book uniquely focused on encouraging women to become leaders in the human services field.

Haynes is the presidential sponsor for the American Council on Education’s Southern California Network of Women in Higher Education and serves on the board of the San Diego Regional EDC. In 2007, she received the San Diego YWCA’s Top Women in Industry Award for contributions to the community and the San Diego Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” Award. Next month she will be recognized with ACE’s 2013 Donna Shavlik Award.

Alex Kajitani
2009 California Teacher of the Year and “The Rappin’ Mathematician”
Escondido Union High School District

Kajitani has been working in the trenches of education for the past 10 years. Teaching math to middle school students in one of San Diego’s poorest neighborhoods, he knows first-hand the daily struggles of students who face low levels of literacy, gang recruitment and disinterest in school.

After months of frustration as a new teacher who was unable to connect with his students, Kajitani noticed that his students, who could not remember the math rule from the previous day, could recite every word of the latest rap song. He began rapping his lessons, and suddenly, his students’ achievement and interest in math began to soar.

Now known around the country as “The Rappin’ Mathematician,” Kajitani’s CDs are being used in thousands of homes and classrooms around the world, and he speaks nationally about "Making Math Cool." In 2009, he was named California Teacher of the Year, and a Top Four Finalist for National Teacher of the Year.

The most effective way to support women in math and science is to support them as early as possible in the classroom. Kajitani has been educating, supporting and encouraging young women to become the first in their family to attend college, and break the cycle of generational poverty.

He is also creating teacher training programs to elevate the teaching profession, so that more young women will have the same opportunities and success as their male counterparts, especially in math and science careers. Kajitani knows that to truly empower young women, the messages need to come from the men, as well.

Joanne Pastula
Junior Achievement of San Diego and Imperial Counties

Pastula began her business career with Psychology Today magazine in 1970, the youngest female administrative manager ever hired. In 1977, she was recruited as the first female executive for John Burnham and Company, the sixth oldest company in San Diego and the leader in the male-dominated commercial real estate industry.

After 17 years at Burnham, Pastula took her business experience to the Girl Scouts and then to Junior Achievement where she could influence young people, especially girls and young women, preparing them for careers, life-long learning and while teaching financial literacy, money management and entrepreneurship.

For 14 years, Pastula has led Junior Achievement of San Diego and Imperial Counties, dramatically growing the organization. JA now serves 50,000 students annually, has 2,500 volunteers and 27 staff (25 are women). Pastula has been recognized nationally as a top JA leader with the Charles Flemke Award and her JA operation recently received the JA National Gold Summit Award for excellence in management and leadership, extraordinarily impactful student programs and excellent financial management.

Pastula strongly advocates that girls and young women can do anything if they are willing to prepare and apply their energy and passion.

Pastula serves on the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, is active in LEAD San Diego, is on the board of directors of the San Diego Regional EDC and a member of the Strategic Leadership Committee with the Business Leadership Alliance.

Anca Segall, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Biology
San Diego State University

Segall was born in communist Romania and her family moved to the United States when she was 12 to give Segall a better chance in a free society, believing that hard work and a strong education would bring opportunities for success. She set out to make her mark in science seeking mentors at University of Maryland, University of Michigan and then at University of Utah, with rigorous workloads and putting her in new environments. In the 1990s, Segall became an assistant professor at SDSU, passionate about teaching realizing that the enthusiasm of students that she mentored could succeed with sharing her background and experience.

Segall is passionate about mentoring her students. She has had three female postdocs (of six), four female Ph.D. students (of 12), 16 female Master’s students (out of 25) and 40 female undergraduates (out of 83) work in her lab. She has mentored female colleagues and highlighted programs that would promote their progress in biomedical sciences and/or entry in graduate schools, professional programs, postdoctoral fellowships or jobs.

Segall has participated with the career development American Women in Science workshop in San Diego, geared for women promoting careers in academia and biotech. In addition, she participated with UCSD’s career workshops and Navigating Tenure at Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine for postdoctoral fellows. Segall has organized seminar series inviting successful women colleagues, not only because of the high quality of their science, but also to serve as models for female students. As an annual judge at the SDSU Student Research Symposium and organizer of San Diego Microbiology Group, she ensures that deserving women are equally represented as men among the speakers.

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