March is declared as Women’s History Month, a time to recognize women’s contributions to culture and society through history. Influential women have paved the way to allow today’s generation to achieve more than ever possible before. Kean University recognizes these contributions and celebrates the women within their community and beyond.
Women scholars at Kean continue to make their mark in and out of the classroom. From laboratories to center stage, women at Kean continue to excel and make contributions regardless of stigmas and stereotypes. They continue to push themselves to achieve their academic, professional and personal goals. Kean University commends them for their passion and perseverance.
Senior Melissa Tito has always been passionate about activism and storytelling, therefore she wanted the opportunity to showcase this through her creativity. She decided to major in Graphic Design: Interactive Advertising to be able to combine her passions.
Aside from her academics, Tito is also an intern at the Michael Graves College (MGC) where she creates promotional content for the MGC Virtual Portfolio Review event.
Tito is grateful to have Professor Robin Landa to look up to throughout her undergraduate career.
She said, “I thank her for seeing a spark in me and pushing me out of my shell to become the unapologetically vocal woman I am today. My goal is to pay my professor’s kindness and wisdom forward.”
Last semester the Robert Busch School of Design at Kean had their first all-female graduating class.
Tito said, “Seeing how united and supportive they all were of each other made me very optimistic about the future of design and advertising.”
Tito explained that although women’s voices are important in the advertising industry, they are often underrepresented in her field. Despite this, she hopes to overcome this stigma and work at an advertising agency as a junior art director after her upcoming graduation.
Another field that women have been making their mark in is the STEM field. Sophomore Kathleen Blain shares her experience as a Computational Science and Engineering major in the 5-year master’s program.
She is involved at Kean through her job as a student Ambassador for the University and is the President of the Hall Council for the Upperclassmen Residence Hall, where she resides.
Blain said, “Women in the STEM field inspire me. Often when we think of women in STEM we think of women in lab coats, working in labs and working with ingredients from biology. But it's a lot more than that.”
She explained that being a woman surrounded by male colleagues can lead to people second-guessing the women in the field.
She continued, “In a way I feel like I'm at an advantage. Because I am a woman, people keep a closer eye on me. With that being said, I have more opportunities to impress them and prove them wrong.”
Despite any odds, she showcases that women can take criticism and turn it into positive motivation to succeed even further.
Blain is involved on campus as a Student Ambassador for the university and President of Hall Council for the Upperclassman Residence Hall where she resides. Through these experiences, Blain continues to excel in her academic, personal and professional endeavors.
Junior Ashley Indar is also a woman in STEM as she is majoring in Information Technology (I.T.) with a concentration in Cybersecurity. Additionally, she works as a Technical Support Specialist for the Office of Student Government and is the President of the Women in Cybersecurity chapter at Kean.
She decided on this major after studying liberal arts, then changing routes to study Automotive Technology where she graduated from Lincoln Technical Institute at the top of her class with academic distinction. To offer her a more stable career, Indar then decided to study at Kean to get her B.S. in I.T.
Indar came from a single parent household, therefore her biggest inspiration is her mother. She is grateful to have such a great female role model to support her along her journey, and she even followed in her mom’s footsteps when she chose to major in I.T.
Because of her experiences and her own positive support system, she is always working to uplift the women around her in her major by offering advice as well as words of encouragement.
Indar said, “My top advice to female college students is to simply stick to your journey. Understand that everyone’s path is different and you don’t have to fit a specific template to be successful.”
She continued, “Be unapologetically yourself and own it. There are times you might feel lesser than to others, but rise above it and show the world how and why you are a boss.”
Moving on to center stage, Junior Jennifer Pillaga is studying to get her B.F.A. in Theatre Performance with a minor in Health. She is involved in Kean’s Theatre Conservatory as the first and most recent student representative and is also involved in the Kean Theatre Council.
Pillaga never imagined having the opportunity to study theatre on a collegiate level as she came from a low-income community. After attending a private middle school in a higher-income neighborhood, she got the opportunity to see how much theatre can have a positive impact in her life.
Her biggest supporter and most influential woman in her life is her mother.
She said, “The things my mother has been through as an immigrant Latina woman is beyond anything I could ever imagine going through. Yet, she still manages to keep on fighting a society that doesn’t want her to succeed and she does so by never rendering to the needs of others above hers.”
Everyday Pillaga is fortunate to get to study her passion. She recognizes that women before her were not afforded the same opportunities, which makes her even more gracious to what she loves everyday.
She said, “I am beyond lucky to be entering this field of work at a time where women have become trailblazers to changing the theatre industry. Not too many decades ago were women in the theatre industry criticized and harassed for wanting to do the same exact thing any male counterpart could do.”
In a field where women can so easily be pitted against each other, Pillaga uses that opportunity to instead support and uplift the women around her. She does this with her community at Kean as well as at a youth theatre company in NYC where she is an Ambassador at.
Pillaga said, “The biggest advice I would give female college students is to take this time to find what truly makes you happy without feeling like you owe anybody anything!”
She continued, “Owning who you are as a woman and as a human being is one of the best feelings in the world. Take that and run with it and don’t apologize for doing so.”
These students exemplify how women in the Kean community are eager to rise above any obstacles or adversities to achieve their goals, all while uplifting the women around them as well. Kean recognizes the efforts of the women in their community and commends them for their passion and contributions to the University and beyond.