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2020 Leading Light Awards Recap and Legacy

10/24/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

When Women & Hi Tech was founded over 20 years ago, one of the organization’s primary missions was to recognize and elevate outstanding STEM females. It hosted its first award ceremony, then called the Spotlight Awards, in 2000. Members in attendance at that beautiful event, hosted at the Indianapolis Zoo Dolphin Pavilion, could never have imagined how the 20th Anniversary of the Leading Light Awards would take shape.

Coronavirus pandemic. Working in pajamas for months. And a national crusade for gender and racial equality that feels almost identical to the landscape of decades past. Did any of us see 2020 coming?

But the leadership and members of Women & Hi Tech were not thwarted by these challenges. Instead Women & Hi Tech’s members, sponsors, Leading Light Awards Committee, and Board of Directors rolled up their sleeves to pull off the changes and efforts necessary to still have a memorable and noteworthy event. The result was a stunning virtual event that continues to recognize and support female STEM excellence and new this year Indiana diversity, equity and inclusion champions and male allies.

Indiana Women In STEM Organization

This year, there were over 150 nominees for the awards, grants, and scholarships that define the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala as a premier event celebrating Indiana’s STEM community. All these nominees represent the amazing STEM innovation that has helped Indiana endure and thrive during the pandemic and other challenges of the year.

“I think most of us would agree so many things about this year have been unexpected,” said Lauryn Andrews, Leading Light Awards Director. “And yet when I think about 2020, the words that come to mind are hope, inspiration, and change. Though we can’t be together in person, it’s never been more apparent that we are in this together.”

Women & Hi Tech recognized outstanding STEM professionals with its esteemed Leading Light Awards and was able to award over $50,000 in grants and scholarships to develop the female STEM talent of the future.

New 2020 Women & Hi Tech Indiana STEM Scholarships

Women & Hi Tech is continually gratified to have the amazing support of so many community and scholarship sponsors across Indiana’s STEM community. “Your continued generosity and support make a difference for female STEM professionals, K-12 students, and collegiate young ladies,” Board President Rebecca Bormann reminded these sponsors and members during the Leading Light Awards. “Thank you for allowing us to advance our mission.”

In addition to the fifteen scholarships that were awarded this year, 2020 marked the inaugural awarding of the Rare Nickel Scholarship. This $5000 scholarship celebrates the first five women who received Spotlight Awards in 2000: Laura Larimer, Dr. Catherine Olmer, Dr. Elcira Villarreal, Carol Curran, and Amy Conrad Warner. Each year it is awarded, this scholarship will continue their legacy of paving the way for future generations of female STEM leaders in Indiana. The first recipient of this new Rare Nickle Scholarship was Marielle Berin, BS Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University.

Women & Hi Tech also introduced the #INThisTogether Scholarship, its first member-funded scholarship. Over $3000 was awarded to LaJoi Robinson, MS Information and Communication Science, Ball State University.

Girls STEM Education Scholarships in Indiana

In addition to these new STEM scholarships for women and girls, Women & Hi Tech also awarded tens of thousands of dollars through established Women & Hi Tech scholarships and sponsor generosity:

$5,000 Top Graduate Student Scholarship:

Taymee Brandon, PhD Environmental Engineering, Purdue University

$5,000 Top Undergraduate Student Scholarship:

My “Alice” Dang, BS Mechanical Engineering, Anderson University

$5,000 Top High School Senior Scholarship:

Doonyah Alucozai, BS Computer Information Technology, Purdue University

$5,000 Professional Development Grant:

Soma Mukhopadhyay, Biotechnology Quality & Regulatory Compliance Graduate Certificate, Purdue University

$10,000 WGU Indiana Scholarship:

Tosin Ajayi, BS Cybersecurity and Information Assurance

$2,500 SIM Indy Technology Graduate Student Scholarship:

Jennifer Fleming, MS Informatics, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

$2,500 SIM Indy Technology Undergraduate Student Scholarship:

Jordyn Blakey, BS Computer Science, DePauw University

$2,500 Ivy Tech Scholarship:

Fatimah Omotoso, AS Biology, Ivy Tech Indianapolis

$2,500 Ivy Tech Scholarship:

Eunice Macharia, AS Database Development and Administration, Ivy Tech Fort Wayne

$2,500 Bell Techlogix High School Senior Scholarship:

Yukthika Sajja, BS Cybersecurity, Purdue University

$2,500 Sallie Mae High School Senior Scholarship:

Kehinde “Bomi” Anifowose, BS Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

$2,000 Barnes & Thornburg LLP Patent/Corporate Law Scholarship:

Richa Patel, JD Patent Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

$2,000 Verizon Technology Scholarship:

Amanda Goodridge, MS Cybersecurity Risk Management, Indiana University Bloomington

Startup Ladies Membership Grant (valued at $600):

Andre'a Crowder

Startup Ladies Membership Grant (valued at $600):

Anelis Susana Chiluisa Calvache

It was deeply important to Women & Hi Tech’s Board of Directors, members, and awards judges that the nominees and winners represent the diversity in Indiana’s STEM community, and that these awards extend outside Central Indiana to advance STEM in all corners of our state.

Leading Light Awards for STEM Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Promote Minorities in STEM

The theme of the 2020 Leading Light Awards was Equity and Inclusion. This theme was recognized with the establishment of two new awards that elevate and encourage organizations to make STEM more inclusive to all. “We need the diversity in STEM roles to reflect the diversity in our community,” said emcee Sara Jones of WTHR Channel 13News.

  • One new Leading Light Award established this year was the Women & Hi Tech Equity and Inclusion Champion Leading Light Award. The organization named both an honorary and inaugural winner of this award. Honorary winner was Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D., Intellectual Property/Patent Attorney at Barnes & Thornburg LLP. This honor was bestowed for her many contributions to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, including spearheading many of the major advancements for diverse women within Women & Hi Tech, as well as throughout her career and personal life.
  • The inaugural winner of the Equity and Inclusion Champion Leading Light Award was Erica Diebold, Senior Intellectual Property Manager at Roche Diabetes Care, Inc. She received this award after building increased allyship for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community at Roche and in the local community, including developing allyship training.

A second new Leading Light Award was the OperationALL™ Male Allies Leading Light Award, again with both honorary and inaugural winners.

  • The honorary winner of this award was Gerry Dick, Founder and CEO of Inside INdiana Business. This honor was bestowed for his lifelong commitment and allyship to Women & Hi Tech and promoting women and girls in STEM in Indiana.
  • The inaugural winner of OperationALL™ Male Allies Leading Light Award was Lamont Hatcher, the CEO of AIS. Outside his involvement with Women & Hi Tech, he serves on the board for both Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity and Morning Light, Inc. He also mentors women in technology and young African American men through 100 Black Men.

As some awards were created, another sponsored award came to an end. Toni Hickey, J.D., Deputy General Counsel and Chief IP Counsel of Cummins, Inc., was awarded the final Barnes & Thornburg LLP Hi Tech Woman of the Year Leading Light Award for her exemplary leadership and her commitment to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for all in the STEM and legal communities.

Watch The Full Leading Light Awards and Celebrate STEM Females in Indiana

Witness and honor the excellence of Indiana’s STEM community for yourself by watching the full Leading Light Awards 2020 event on YouTube.

To all the sponsors and virtual attendees, Women & Hi Tech offers their sincerest thanks and appreciation. Changing the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all is a mission that takes time and concrete effort that would not be possible without each of your support. They would especially like to thank Fuel V+M and The Momentum GROUP, the marketing and videography firms that helped create the first-ever virtual LLAs.

And to the award, grant, and scholarship winners, Women & Hi Tech also says thank you, for the work and dedication you put forward every day to make the Indiana STEM community such an incredible place to learn, grow, and belong. We are truly in this together, and it’s a great place to be.

2020 Leading Light Award Winners

Honorary Equity and Inclusion Champion Award

Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D., Senior Associate Intellectual Property (IP)/Patent Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

Inaugural Equity and Inclusion Champion Award

Erica Diebold, Senior Intellectual Property Manager | Diabetes Care Patents, Roche Diabetes Care, Inc.

Honorary OperationALL™ Male Allies Champion Award

Gerry Dick, Host and Creator of Inside INdiana Business

Inaugural OperationALL™ Male Allies Champion Award

Lamont Hatcher, Founder and CEO of AIS

Mentor Me! Award

Heather Jones, Group Leader - Fermentation Development and Media Preparation Labs, Corteva Agriscience

Leadership Award

Christine McDonnell, Co-Founder & CEO, Codelicious

Risk Taker Award

Teresa Plummer, Director, IT Governance and Delivery Services, Sallie Mae

Rising Star Award

Shilpi Bhargav, Global Head of Requirements Modeling Group, Roche Diabetes Care, Inc

You Inspire Us! Award

Rupal Thanawala, Tech Editor, Indianapolis Recorder

Outstanding Educator in STEM Award

Keeanna Warren, Principal, Purdue Polytechnic High School North

Outstanding Achievement in STEM Award

Mary Lee Gambone, Head of Materials Engineering, Rolls-Royce North America

Change the Landscape Award

Audrey Taylor, CEO, netlogx

Barnes & Thornburg Hi Tech Woman of the Year Award

Toni Hickey, J.D., Deputy General Counsel & Chief IP Counsel, Cummins, Inc.


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