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Women of Innovation: Inspiring STEM Equitability Award Finalists

The Inspiring STEM Equitability Award recognizes an individual who works to create a climate that is not only diverse but also inclusive of all people in such ways that further the success and promotion of the STEM fields.

Equitability, diversity, and inclusivity are not just women’s issues — they are business, economic, and societal issues. Organizations need change agents who will champion equitability and diversity and encourage others to also become ambassadors of the effort. The Inspiring STEM Equitability Award is open to any individual, irrespective of gender expression, 17 years of age or older who demonstrate a commitment to promoting equitability, diversity, and inclusivity in the STEM arena.

Niasia Williams, Katherine Coyner, Ellen Last, Kayla Cloutier, Carla Lopez, and Sonya Richmond share a passion for bridging the gap between STEM and inclusivity from creating services that provide mentorship programs for underrepresented communities to creating and influencing programs for K-12 that promote STEM and Innovation. 

Niasia Williams graduated with honors from Rutgers University receiving her BA and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Thriving in the aerospace industry, she validates cutting edge technologies and completed a master’s in STEM Education. After 9 years of working with schools, leading international non-profits such as MSBE, Niasia founded Legacy Development Services, an organization helping impoverished youth and young adults realize their potential. 

For Niasia, it is important to help underrepresented communities because she understands the struggles. As a young woman of color who was interested in STEM, Niasia found it difficult to find mentorship or guidance from someone in the education system. Through those challenges, Niasia found her passion at the intersection of Engineering and Education. She says she is “really about making sure that others in minority communities have STEM exposure”, enabling them to turn their passion into profitable careers thereby increasing their quality of life. Watch Niasia’s full interview here:

Katherine Coyner is an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at UConn Health and specializes in sports medicine. She serves as a team physician for the UConn Huskies and previously served as the head team doctor for the WNBA Connecticut Sun. As a successful female in a male-dominated profession, Katherine is passionate about exposing young women to STEM fields and helping them believe that they can succeed too. In Connecticut, Katherine has educated 573 high school women through her unique educational program.

Ellen Last is a customer experience and digital product leader with over 13 years of experience in Product Management, Design Thinking, and Innovation from small startups to global corporations. With a passion for helping individuals and organizations identify and implement innovative solutions to their business challenges through the power of Human-Centered, Ellen delights in the opportunity to help teams collaborate and incorporate Design Thinking practices to break new ground in their respective areas.

Kayla Cloutier leads pre-clinical studies evaluating the efficacy of hernia fixation implant while managing testing for an electro-mechanical delivery system. With almost nine years of experience at Medtronics in various product development engineering roles designing and testing instruments that are used in laparoscopic surgery, Kayla is passionate about sharing her STEM experience to inspire future generations of Engineers and Scientists.

Carla Lopez is a Project Manager in the Pratt & Whitney Global Supply Chain Center of Excellence and the President of Pratt & Whitney Hispanic Leadership Forum since 2019. As president, Carla has been able to carry out her passion for diversity, education, and community involvement through mentorship and building future leaders. Carla holds a BA in Supply Chain Management from Eastern Michigan University and an MBA from Indiana University. 

Sonya Richmond is a volunteer board member of the Connecticut Invention Convention and is one of the founders of the STEMIE Coalition, which ran the first K-12 National Invention Convention to further share and elevate students’ inventions of promise with peers and professionals. Sonya believes all students are enriched through invention and deserve a forum to display their original thought and problem-solving skills.

The Inspiring STEM Equitability Award is a recent addition to the award categories for Women of Innovation, in recognition of the increasing evidence that diversity and inclusion practices make a stronger workforce. Learn more about our Finalists here: https://ctdidi.com/women-of-innovation/

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