What is Empower (formerly known as Voices)?

Voices is a networking and professional development conference hosted annually by the State College Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) for students, post-docs, faculty, and professionals in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Fields.

Since 2005, Empower conferences have provided participants with opportunities to interact with others from different backgrounds and experiences, as well as provide them with information to help achieve their academic goals and have a successful work-life balance. Participants have the opportunity to find out how various women and men in the STEM fields handle their education, career, and personal life through discussions about ideas, successes, and struggles with each other. There are several types of sessions throughout the day: breakout, speaker, and keynote. Breakouts are interactive sessions typically paired with small group discussions or activities. Speakers are sessions from a speaker to share various stories, experiences, and advice with attendees. The keynote address is our marquee address, used to bring together the theme and underlying message each year.


Save the Date!

Get involved, expand your network, and build communication skills at the 16th annual Empower conference! Tentatively planned for February, 6th 2021. Check back to this page for more details as they become available.

If you would to join the Voices committee, contact our Voices Co-chair (Ashlee McGovern, adm58@psu.edu).


Voices 2020: Embracing the Unexpected


Voices 2020 invited Keynote Ramona Pierson (center), Head of Innovation at PwC, to teach everyone about being an innovator. After being hit by a drunk driver while running, Ramona had to relearn basic functions and now leads a team of scientists and engineers at the forefront of artificial intelligence development. We also invited speakers Dr. Cary Supalo (left) founder of Independent Science, and Kim Lopez (right) senior director at TeenSharp. We also invited Drs. Chris Golde and Marc Friedenberg to lead interactive breakout sessions, and welcomed local participants as chosen panelists. The conference theme was Embracing the Unexpected, focused on finding serendipity within moments of life that are unplanned. It was a day filled with discussions and conversations about how to tackle life’s toughest moments, how to celebrate the best ones, and finding your vocation.


“Voices is an exciting day of inspirational talks. No matter what the obstacles and/or unexpected circumstances one faces in their daily life, what makes one persevere is hearing the stories of perseverance.” –Dr. Tiffany Mathews, Co-Program Director for Education & Outreach, Center for Nanoscale Science

“The Voices Conference was very informative and organized. Each speaker’s unique story gave me a better understanding of the diversity within STEM fields.” –Meghan Ishler, High School Student

“The Voices Conference allowed me to hear perspectives and narratives of courage and bravery that define what it means to be a scientist. It also allowed me to connect with people from around the university and forge phenomenal conversations and relationships with those I, otherwise, would not have interacted with.” –Danny Glickman, Undergraduate Student, Chemistry


Voices 2019: Taking Action


Voices 2019 Keynote, Dr. Jedidah Ishler (center), is currently an Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at Dartmouth College where she studies hyperactive, supermassive black holes. Dr. Isler is an outspoken advocate of inclusion and empowerment in STEM fields; she is dedicated to using STEM as a pathway for social justice. To do so, she has founded “Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM” and The STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, Inc. We also invited Drs. Wendy Hanna-Rose (left) and Karl Booksh (right) to speak about their experiences and advice on inclusion within STEM fields. Dr. Maureen Mulvihill and Steven Mezzacappa lead breakout sessions focused on harnessing the power of one’s passion. Throughout the day, we discussed our own experiences with taking action and being leaders in our fields, along with giving some advice and motivation about how we can all take action.


“Taking action on a particular issue can be a difficult or scary step. Dr. Ishler’s keynote encouraged me to trust my own voice as I take action in my life.” –Megan Steves, PhD Candidate, Chemistry

“I enjoy the ‘sketch your science’ activity. It allows for my artistic creativity to show and a different way to share my research.” –Latisha Franklin, PhD Candidate, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

“The Voices Conference is important because it builds bridges across departments, professionals outside of Pennsylvania State University, and students from all career stages. I always leave feeling energized and excited about the future of STEM.–Ashlee McGovern, PhD Candidate, Chemistry


Do you want to get involved with Voices?

Voices 2021 will be coming soon.  Attending a conference is a great way to your professional network. If you are interested in joining the Voices committee, contact our Voices Co-chair (Ashlee McGovern, adm58@psu.edu).

A big thank you to our Voices 2020 committee for making the 15th annual conference a huge success!