Opportunity Corps: Women in STEAM graduates 19 fellows from inaugural program
November 29, 2022

UNeTech Institute is proud to announce the graduation of 19 women from Opportunity Corps: Women in STEAM, a ten-month education program focused on entrepreneurship and leadership development that matches women academic and industry professionals in Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering, and Math with women mentors in those subject areas. The program, a partnership with Bio Nebraska, is funded through a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

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Opportunity Corps: Women in STEAM leaders Dr. Stephanie Kidd, Jennifer Pool, and Sasha Forsen at graduation in November at Luli Creative House.

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Program leader Jennifer Pool (left) hands graduate Deborah Dogba her graduation certificate. Graduates were also presented with  a $500 stipend for completing the program.

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Members of the Opportunity Corps cohort watch a panel moderated by Jennifer Pool (right), and consisting of their mentors: (from left to right) Agnes Lenagh, Dr. Sangeeta Badal, Amanda Wilson, Sarah Lynn Brown, and Dr. Sara Myers.

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Wrapping up the final day of the program, (from left to right) are Itzel Lopez, Jennifer Pool, Ariel Panowicz, Amanda Wilson, Sasha Forsen, Dr. Sangeeta Badal, and Dr. Stephanie Kidd.

“UNeTech is always looking for community members with an interest in leading the companies that are formed out of medical research at UNMC, and it can be a challenge to find women entrepreneurs to serve as founders,” said Dr. Stephanie Kidd, communications strategist for UNeTech and principal investigator for the Opportunity Corps grant. “Opportunity Corps provides us with a chance to train brilliant women in STEAM on entrepreneurship and also recruit them to partner with our inventions in our incubator. It’s a double win.”

Opportunity Corps focuses on a different subject each month, with a one-day educational workshop session featuring STEAM industry experts and leaders from the community, as well as one-on-one mentoring sessions with the mentors each month.

In an effort to overcome the barriers that women face in STEAM industries, especially as entrepreneurs, the main goals of Opportunity Corps are: 

  • To provide women in STEAM access to mentors and program presenters who are experts in their fields.
  • To create awareness of existing women leaders.
  • To help forge a path to leadership and entrepreneurship for women in STEAM, whether to become leaders within an existing organization or to start their own venture.
  • To benefit the community and STEAM industries in Nebraska by helping women address and overcome barriers to leadership and entrepreneurship, allowing for a more confident sharing of ideas and leadership abilities.

“Bio Nebraska is proud to have had the opportunity to partner with the UNeTech Institute on such an important program that is working to develop future STEAM leaders and entrepreneurs in Nebraska,” said Sasha Forsen, Bio Nebraska Assistant Director. “Women play a crucial role in the growth of Nebraska’s STEAM industries, and we look forward to continuing the Opportunity Corps in the new year.” 

Graduates of the program said they found the structure of the program, the mentorship element, and the diversity of the speakers and the panels all to be crucial elements of the overall success of Opportunity Corps.

“The presenters were extremely knowledgeable, but also flexible and allowed discussion to reflect the needs of the group,” said Dr. Anupa Kamat, an Associate Director for Merck Animal Health. “Mentors are a fantastic way to gain insight into where your career may lead. Our world is filled with networking opportunities. This program was definitely one that promoted this! Mentors are guides to what has, what is, and what will happen in your organization as they have generally ‘been there, done that’.”

Itzel Lopez, VP of Advancement & Development at the AIM Institute, said she had similar thoughts. For Itzel, the most valuable part of Opportunity Corps was “getting to know other women in STEAM who are facing similar challenges.” She also said she enjoyed the keynote speakers and panelists who came for afternoon sessions but learned the most from in-house instructors. “I really loved the variety,” she said. “But I especially enjoyed learning about the business canvas concept. I would recommend this to anybody in a leadership role who wants to have a greater impact on their career and the careers of those they lead.” 

Applications for the second year of Opportunity Corps will be open soon. The program will kick off in February 2023 and last through November 2023. Women in STEAM industries who are interested in developing their entrepreneurship and leadership skills are strongly encouraged to apply. 

Mentors for the program include:

  • Agnes Lenagh, PhD, Streck Industries – Science
  • Amanda Wilson, Novozymes – Engineering
  • Sangeeta Badal, PhD, Censio Analytics – Math
  • Sara Myers, PhD, UNO – Technology
  • Sarah Lynn Brown, Leavenworth Space – Art

Graduates include:

  • Andrea A. Rodriguez Gutierrez
  • Anupa Kamat, PhD
  • Candice Starks
  • Courtney Allen-Gentry, RN MSN PHN AHN-BC HWNC-BC
  • Deborah Dogba
  • Dolores Henson
  • Itzel Lopez
  • Jessica Hart
  • Katie Kresha
  • Katie Otten
  • Kinsey Bosselman
  • Krysten Vance, PhD
  • Lingli Gan
  • Mandy Steenbock
  • Melanie Kiper
  • Mireille Dimigou
  • Neha Kumari
  • Sabreena Larson
  • Stephanie Cossette

Program Leadership includes:

  • Stephanie Kidd, PhD – UNeTech Institute
  • Jace Gatzemeyer, PhD – UNeTech Institute
  • Jenny Pool, MPA – UNeTech Institute
  • Sasha Forsen – Bio Nebraska

About UNeTech Institute

UNeTech Institute is an entrepreneurial support organization in Omaha, Nebraska, jointly supported by UNMC and UNO, whose mission is to supports entrepreneurs and innovators by harnessing the resources of the University of Nebraska ecosystem and the Omaha and greater Nebraska community. UNeTech works with some of the brightest minds in the state to turn University research ideas into commercialized and successful businesses. To learn more about UNeTech, visit www.unetech.org.

About Bio Nebraska

Founded in 2005, Bio Nebraska is a non-profit trade association dedicated to supporting and promoting Nebraska’s bioscience sector and ensuring the sector grows and thrives. Bio Nebraska is the only organization in the state representing over 100 bio-related entities in the human health, medical device, animal health, agriculture, renewable fuels and industrial biotech sectors, as well as educational institutions and service providers. For more information, visit bionebraska.org.

About the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

The Kauffman Foundation helps unlock opportunity for all so that people can achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. In the spirit of Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development.

 

To create equitable, comprehensive, and sustainable change, they first listen to the communities in which they work, develop shared learning and knowledge, and bring people together. Through these collaborations, they champion ideas and support solutions designed to improve educationboost entrepreneurship, and help communities and individuals thrive. Learn more at kauffman.org.

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