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Support Adds Up

Increasing financial support for STEM scholars is also a piece of the gender parity puzzle. Access to more scholarship opportunities–particularly for those from underrepresented communities–can be a powerful tool.

Canton alumni and friends have stepped up to create awards specifically for women. Most recently, four supporters have joined together to establish an endowment that provides financial scholarships to female Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) students.

The initiative is led by William H. Maxwell, an Electrical Facilities Engineer at SUNY Upstate Medical University and a member of the College’s EET Advisory Board, who saw an opportunity to encourage diversity by becoming a lead scholarship donor.

“There’s always been a gender imbalance in these programs, and the reality is all of us who have a desire to learn have an obligation to give back to the profession, the community, and to science,” he said.

Two of his colleagues—alumna Marylin A. Galimi ’97, an EET graduate, and Jenny Lee Ragan, a graduate of Onondaga
Community College’s (OCC) Architectural Technology program—raised their hands to join him as founding donors.

Galimi is SUNY Upstate’s Chief Operating Officer and has more than 25 years’ experience in design operations. Her father was a mechanical engineer in her home country of Venezuela, and growing up she loved science. She heard about Canton after spending time in St. Lawrence County as a high school exchange student and wanted to continue studying in the U.S.

“At the time, Venezuela was a prosperous country, but women were not seen as professionals," Galimi said. "It was more about getting married and having a family, and I knew I wanted something different.”

She had a positive experience in the largely male-dominated program at Canton and credits the faculty for guiding her in the right direction.

“They weren’t just professors, but great advisors,” she recalled. “They understood my situation as an international student and a woman. They recommended I consider becoming an engineering consultant, so I took a job with C&S Engineering in Syracuse. That helped me create a support network that I built a 20-year career on.”

Ragan is the third founding donor and SUNY Upstate's Director of Design and Construction. She also worked at C&S and became acquainted with Canton through construction projects. As a licensed architect, she was the Construction Manager on theiconic campus footbridge replacement project in 2012 and the Design and Construction Manager for an extensive exterior residence hall renovation project in 2015. Ragan said she enjoyed traveling to campus and had many coworkers who were Canton alumni.

When Maxwell approached her about the opportunity to donate, she thought about her own experience as an architecture student at OCC.

“I received a scholarship my first year of college, and without it, I simply wouldn’t have been able to attend,” she recalled. “It wasn’t a lot of money, but it made a huge difference to me. I am hopeful that this award has a similar impact for its recipients.”

Around the same time Maxwell and his colleagues were discussing the scholarship, another EET alumna, Nancy D. Tremlett ’86, stepped forward to be the fourth founding donor. A technician for New York Telephone (now Verizon) for most of her career, she was one of the first women in the Central New York area to work in the field traversing manholes and power lines to keep people connected. After 25 years, she said there is still work to be done to increase gender parity in the profession.

“I had been thinking for years about how I could assist other women who were interested in EET, but I didn’t know how to go about it. One day, I received a letter from the College asking for assistance for support of this scholarship, and I jumped right in.”

Once the eligibility criteria for the award was established, the College began accepting applications for the first “Women in Electrical Engineering Technology Scholarship.” A committee selected a non-traditional student, Sara Lynch, as the inaugural recipient
in Fall 2021.

Lynch previously attended Alfred University and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with concentrations in painting and ceramics. Upon returning to her hometown of Potsdam, she rented a studio and acquired her own kilns to create commissioned pieces and lead pottery classes.

“I had to troubleshoot electrical glitches and needed more advanced instruction than YouTube tutorials to make kiln repairs,” she said. A friend suggested enrolling in Canton’s Electrical Engineering Technology program to upskill.

After taking several courses, Lynch began to think about how she could use technology to augment her own afterschool literacy and art workshops. Bringing STEM to girls through the lens of art has the potential to get them excited about tech fields in a new way.

“I believe the future of education is multidisciplinary, and with the help of this scholarship, I will be able to fuse art with science and technology for area children,” she said.

Community role models like Lynch have the creative ability to make STEM more appealing and welcoming to the next generation of students. As more girls find their niche in a tech space and pursue degrees at colleges like Canton, the U.S. has an opportunity to fill a nationwide skills gap and harness new ideas and innovations to solve tomorrow's challenges.