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Executive Women of New Jersey, continuing its mission to identify and promote female leaders of the future, awards scholarships to graduate students

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The recipients of the Executive Women of New Jersey 2016 scholarships along with the EWNJ's Michellene Davis, Maureen Schneider and Mary Clare Garber.
The recipients of the Executive Women of New Jersey 2016 scholarships along with the EWNJ's Michellene Davis, Maureen Schneider and Mary Clare Garber. - ()

More than a dozen women pursuing graduate degrees at universities in New Jersey were honored with scholarships from the Executive Women of New Jersey at the organization's annual scholarship dinner last week.

The awards totaled $75,000, but they have always been about more than just financial aid, the group said. They are about the future of females in leadership in the state and around the country.

Michellene Davis, the president-elect of EWNJ, summed up the moment.

“You are such incredible women doing such phenomenal things in order to make unquestionable, tremendous impact to make this world a better place,” she said to the audience. “And, so, the Executive Women of New Jersey stand here because you deserve to be saluted."

“This organization is not like other organizations. There is a greater cause. We will continue to push through an agenda to make sure there is a seat at the table for everyone.

“This is a way where we can assure that there is a pipeline just waiting to take hold of leadership.”

And what a pipeline it is.

Mary Clare Garber, the head of the scholarship committee, said the organization receives well over 100 applications for the scholarships every year.

This year, EWNJ awarded 14 scholarships (listed below). In its history, Garber said, EWNJ has now awarded more than $1.2 million in scholarship money.

“One of, if not the most, deeply rewarding experiences I have had in my professional career is to chair or to participate on the EWNJ scholarship committee, where we recognize an exceptional group of women, who despite personal, professional, financial or cultural hardships, have a vision that they pursue with a burning desire,” she said. “Their inner strength to succeed is an inspiration at the deepest level.”

The scholarships are just one of the major missions of the group.

Another is its biennial report, A Seat at the Table, which tracks the progress of women in the board room of companies around the state. (See latest report here.)

Davis, an executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer at RWJBarnabas Health, said it was the goal of every woman in the room to see more women advance to the highest levels of leadership. She encouraged this year’s honorees to seek out members of the organization to help them reach their ultimate goals.

“Do not leave this room without identifying a mentor,” she said. “There are women in this room who want to not only give you a scholarship but to be there for you as a sponsor, a mentor and a coach."

“There are women in this room who are trailblazers and who are here to make sure there is room for you in every board room and at every seat that has ‘CEO’ written on the back of it.”

Doing so, she said, will be a team effort.

“We need to ensure that we are keeping the dialogue and keeping the momentum to ensure that everyone knows that we are here and we are ready,” she said.

Garber, vice president at Princeton Legal Search, said she was confident the event will be the first step in that process.

“I have never seen anyone walk away from this recognition event who have not been personally or professionally affected by the groups of women selected by EWNJ,” she said.

This year’s group, she said, is special.

“In the lives that they have lived and in their pursuit of their dreams, there are very powerful lessons to be learned about perseverance, passion, commitment and dedication to personal and professional goals,” she said. “They have walked many different paths and are on many different journeys, but they all have that burning desire to achieve their dream and to share that dream with others.”

For more information about the EWNJ scholarships, click here. (Please note, applications for next year’s honorees will be available starting in March.)

A list of the EWNJ board and the scholarship committee is below. To learn more about EWNJ, including how to join, click here.

And to learn more about A Seat at the Table, a report chaired by Barbara E. Kauffmann, executive vice president of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, and chair of the board appointments committee, click here.

The event was held in the special events room at The Seeing Eye, in Morristown.

Award winners

The following are this year’s honorees, starting with four named scholarship winners from four of the biggest supporters of the scholarships.

Each woman honored offered EWNJ a quote about the significance of the award:

RWJBarnabas Health Women’s Leadership Alliance and EWNJ President’s Scholarship

Asha Martin
Doctorate of Medicine
Rutgers Medical School

“This scholarship boosted my self-esteem and reassured me that I was on the right track. Professionally, I have been able to begin repaying some of my loans and also pay for my housing for an away rotation that I am doing at Harvard Medical School in HIV psychiatry.”

Janssen Cardiovascular & Metabolism Award

Kathleen Montgomery
Master of Science, pharmaceutical chemistry, and Doctor of Pharmacy
Fairleigh Dickinson University

“Throughout my education, I have served in positions of leadership and service, both at my university and within my community, but I believe my most important service has been as an example to my daughter and other girls.”

STRIDES® Advancing Women in Business Award

Demetra Murray
Master of Science, finance
New Jersey City University

“I did not go to the post office to pick up the certified mailing alone. I had my two sons with me, so you can imagine the exhilaration between the three of us! Earning this award is exemplary of everything I instill in my children: apply yourself, aim high because you never know all that you can achieve if you do not, and at least try.”

PSEG Award

Maria Qadri
Doctorate, biomedical engineering
Rutgers University

“The EWNJ scholarship has had a tremendous impact on both my confidence in my future goals and my finances. Without this support, I would have borrowed money and taken up part-time work to sustain my living expenses.”

EWNJ Graduate Merit Awards

Jenna Breitinger
Doctorate, physical therapy
Rutgers University

“I want to sincerely thank EWNJ for this honor, for the happiness I felt when my parents called to express how proud they are of me, and for giving me another reason to hold myself accountable in pushing myself to be the best me that I can be.”

Mary Kate Collins
Juris Doctor
Rutgers School of Law-Camden

“I was inspired to attempt a graduate degree, in part, by many EWNJ members who I have seen cracking the glass ceiling on a daily basis.”

Suepavade DeNardo
Master of Arts, K-12 teaching, biology program
William Paterson University

“This award made me feel that all the hardships I had faced growing up and all the hard work I put into turning my life around to achieve the American dream was well worth it.”

Jazmine DeWees
Master of Arts
Montclair State University

“Finances were one of the main reasons I stayed away from graduate school for so long. I want to thank the EWNJ 2016 Graduate Scholarship Award committee for providing me with the chance to pursue my degree and walk into my career.”

Kelly Gentry
Doctorate, counseling
Montclair State University

“This scholarship is providing me with the opportunity to attend the conference for the North Atlantic Region Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Conference (NARACES) in September. I was asked to present at the conference, but financially was unsure how I would fund the registration and the travel expenses.”

Miriam Gerstein
Doctorate, mathematics education
Rutgers University

“I would like to thank EWNJ for having granted me a generous scholarship. I have great financial obligations as well as tremendous demands on my time as I juggle these various life roles. The scholarship will help defray some of my tuition costs so that I can complete my doctoral degree.”

Diana Gonzalez
Master of Arts, education
Rutgers University

“More pressing was the $4,000 of tuition gaining interest on my credit card for an academic research trip I took to Cuba; I had run out of federal loan money to pay for graduate school early in the spring semester. This scholarship helped me finally settle this debt.”

Margaret MacGibney
M.D./Ph.D., medical and health professions
RWJ/Rutgers Graduate School of Education and Princeton University

“The EWNJ scholarship makes it possible for me to pursue coursework on leadership in academic health care, which will help me to gain the skills needed to affect positive change on the structure of medical education and on the health care system.”

Sarah Misenko
Doctorate, biochemistry
Rutgers University

“I aspire to make an impact on those affected by cancer by developing clinical trial programs in personalized medicine. The EWNJ scholarship will provide dissertation phase support as I transition from laboratory research to the clinical oncology workforce in New Jersey.”

Evalyne Orwenyo
Doctorate, social work
Montclair State University

“I am delighted and grateful to be awarded the EWNJ scholarship. The scholarship award will facilitate my preparation for conducting dissertation research, which commences at the end of September 2016, as part of fulfilling requirements for the doctorate.”

Yacoba Vroom-Teschemaker
Master of Science, pharmaceutical biochemistry
Montclair State University

“I am very grateful to be a recipient of the EWNJ scholarship. I am happy to begin a new semester knowing that I can fully concentrate on my studies and research without having to work many long hours.”

EWNJ board

EWNJ board

Maureen Schneider
Chief nurse and operations officer
Chilton Medical Center - Atlantic Health System

Michellene Davis
Executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer
RWJBarnabas Health

Christal McElroy
Audit partner
EisnerAmper LLP
Finance Committee chair

Assistant Treasurer
Baldeep Dua
Chief financial officer

Mary Clare Garber
Vice president
Princeton Legal Search Group
Scholarship Committee co-chair

Immediate Past President
Keitha M. Lackey
Senior consultant
Gorman Health Group

Barbara E. Kauffman
Executive vice president
Newark Regional Business Partnership
Board Appointments Committee chair

Ellen McSherry
Chief operating officer
NJ Society of CPAs
Membership Committee chair


Judy Balaban
Director PMO
International Flavors and Fragrances Inc.

Lourdes Cortez
CEO and president
North Jersey Federal Credit Union

PJ Hilbert
Retired chief human resources officer
Synchronoss Technologies

Brenda Stafford
General counsel
Robert Wood Johnson Physician Enterprise

EWNJ Scholarship Committee


Mary Clare Garber
Princeton Legal Search Group

Susan Dromsky-Reed
Brach Eichler


Nancy Blattner
Caldwell University

Rosa Oppenheimer
Rutgers Business School

Diane McKay Porzio
Bromberg & Newman

Mildred Mihlon
St. Peter’s University

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