VTC Recruiting Women

Tuesday, February 09, 2016
During the four years she studied electromechanical engineering at Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center, Desiree Cerretani found a lot more sisterhood on the soccer field than in the classroom.

“In my major, there were two other women in the class behind me,” Cerretani recalled in a telephone interview last week. “And there were maybe a couple in the class behind them.”

All of which made it easy for Cerretani to say yes when her alma mater asked her to share her experiences for an effort it is launching: to more than double over the next three years the number of women majoring in engineering, computer technology, construction and other fields in which mostly men choose to major.

“Our nursing program is 90 to 95 percent women,” Vermont Tech President Dan Smith said last week in a telephone interview. “The technical fields in general, and particularly the programs we’re focusing on, are right around 90 percent men.”

Last week, the college, which has 1,550 students at its Randolph and Williston campuses, announced an effort to recruit enough women by 2019 to raise from 10 to 25 percent the enrollment of women in its programs in civil and environmental engineering technology, computer information technology, computer software engineering, construction management and mechanical engineering technology.

“Trying to achieve this in a three-year period, it’s certainly aggressive,” Smith acknowledged. “It’ll be challenging to get increased enrollment in all of them.”

Toward that end, Vermont Tech will collaborate with Vermont Works for Women and Change the Story VT — organizations created by the Vermont Commission on Women — in recruiting women to those fields, supporting them in their majors and helping finding them jobs after college.

In a status report, Women, Work and Wages in Vermont, that the commission recently issued, Change the Story noted that 43 percent of women who work full time don’t earn enough to cover basic living expenses. “(W)omen who work full time are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs — in every age group, at every level of education,” it reported.

Smith noted that opportunities are growing for engineering students in such areas as water-quality management, while Vermont pursues alternative-energy initiatives and efforts to prevent degradation of Lake Champlain and other sources of drinking water.

Middlebury College, Saint Michael’s College and Norwich University, all private institutions, are the only schools in the state ranking ahead of VTC in average salaries earned by alumni six months after graduation, Smith said.

“There continues to be no better ticket to economic independence than a post-secondary education,” Smith said. “If we can orient some of those folks into fields that meet the state’s broader workforce needs, it feels like the right thing to do.”

Cerretani, who grew up in Arlington, Vt., and received encouragement to study science and math, now works as an engineer at UTC Aerospace in Vergennes, Vt.

“The VTC career center steered me there for an internship that I did the summer after my junior year,” said Cerretani, who graduated from VTC in 2011. “The last day of my internship, I was offered a job pending my diploma. It made my last year of school much easier, less stressful. I could just focus on school.”

Even as one of the few women in her classes, Cerretani found the environment more welcoming than not.

“I’m supercompetitive,” she said. “(Competing with men) was motivating for me. I felt more of a drive to do something amazing and successful.”

Cerretani said that it was harder to receive one-on-one attention at the University of Hartford, where she initially enrolled and where the teacher in her major “couldn’t remember my name.”

“VTC offers this hands-on experience that a lot of the larger schools don’t get,” she continued. “You’re right into working hard in labs and classes that you might not be able to get into someplace else.”

Now she wants to alert the next generation of Vermont high school girls with a knack for math, science and engineering to the chance not only to study in Vermont but possibly also to stay in their home state for their careers.

“It’s an important thing to get out there,” Cerretani said. “Young women who want careers, and career changes, have options.”

All the Valley’s a Stage

Ten musicians from Hartford Memorial Middle School and 13 from Hartford High School performed at the 2015 Vermont Southeast District VI Band festival over the final weekend of January at Springfield High School.

Hartford students performing with the middle-school band were flute players Kennedy Mullen and Emi Harlow, clarinetists Mykel Fungi and Alexis Duranleau, first-chair baritone saxophonist Andrew Lucke, trumpeter Noah Lerner, trombonist Emma Urso, first-chair baritone horn player Cody Chapman, mallets player Katya Mueller and timpanist/snare-drummer Camden Luca. Fungi had sung in the middle-school chorus at the District VI fall festival, along with fellow Hartford students Hope Bebeau, Jordan Parmenter, Jessie Wilhbur and Emma Farnsworth.

Hartford performers singing with the District VI high school choir were sopranos Megan Fariel and Elyse Boyle; altos Julia Anderson, Ali Davis and Erin Plante; tenors Robert Varela, Alex Rushton, Kyle Mason and Carter Farnsworth; and bass David York. Hartford students playing with the district high school jazz band were trombonist Lucas Bjorkman, trumpeter Ethan Sneddon and drummer Luke LaFountaine.

Collegiate Recognition

Angela Gaudette of Bethel, Hannah Smith of West Lebanon and Jeremy Bulluss of Springfield, Vt., earned berths on the president’s list at the Community College of Vermont for maintaining grade-point averages of 4.0 during the fall 2015 semester.

Upper Valley students making CCV’s dean’s list for averaging between 3.5 and 3.99 during the fall semester were Bradford residents Jacey Emerson, Tyler Griffin and Rae Lauer; White River Junction residents Mona Abdelghani and Nia Lowe; Woodstock residents Olivia Dedell and Heath Moses; Trevor Richardson of Bethel; Abby O’Donnell of East Thetford; Alex Head of Georges Mills, N.H.; Genevieve Amarante of Norwich; Lilian Dalton of South Royalton; Phillip Vickers of Thetford; Rebecca Calhoun of Topsham; Brianna Wright of Windsor; and Springfied, Vt., residents Rachael Drinker, Dmitri Freeman, Patricia McCormack and Mariah Olmstead.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Cells

The Geisel School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Center at Dartmouth and the New Hampshire chapter of the Society for Neuroscience are inviting Upper Valley students ages 13 to 19 to compete at the fourth annual Upper Valley Brain Bee on April 23. April 19 is the deadline to register for the neuroscience activity fair, which includes an interactive competition in brain trivia. The bee will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in room B03 of Dartmouth College’s Moore Hall. To register and learn more, visit geiselmed.dartmouth.edu/ncd/brainbee/registration.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Education-related news and items also can be sent to schoolnotes@vnews.com

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