Glenbrook South expo inspires female students to pursue STEM careers

Teska Landscape Architect Jodi Mariano recently ventured back to her past stomping grounds at Glenbrook South High School to speak at the 28th annual “Careers for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” expo, also called STEM.

As featured in the Sun-Times article below, the event highlights the on-going importance of females in the professional realm speaking to students about their background and experiences and working to inspire like-minded women to pursue their career goals.

Photo Caption: Landscape architect Jodi Mariano (left) and Mimi Noonan, a veterinary surgeon, speak to students at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview on careers for women in science and math. | Photo Credit: Todd Shields/Sun-Times Media

Publication of the Chicago Sun-Times
Article By: Todd Shields | Click to view online article

Growing up in Glenview, a young Jodi Mariano enjoyed playing on construction sites, including the Glenbrook Hospital while it was being built on Pfingsten Road.

She also found inspiration from other places designed to blend human comfort with natural surroundings, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robi House in Chicago, an Israeli kibbutz and the Opryland Hotel Atrium in Nashville, Tenn., which is filled with flora, sun, glass and walking paths.

“These were places that balanced nature and something man-made to create mood,” said Mariano, one of the speakers Friday morning at Glenbrook South High School’s 28th annual “Careers for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” expo.

Today, Mariano is a senior landscape architect for Evanston-based Teska Associates.

Nearly 120 high-achieving GBS sophomore girls attended the STEM breakfast presentation, where Andrea Luthi, a doctoral candidate in chemistry, and Mimi Noonan, a veterinary specialist in internal medicine, also spoke on career women in science, engineering and technical fields.

“Being a curious person, I loved studying the world through the lens of landscaping. I wanted to improve our urban landscapes with parks and plazas,” said Mariano, a 1992 GBS graduate.

Each women spoke in detail about their beloved professions; however, their main, inspired messages were on how they prepared for them and what women brought to corporate board rooms, landscape architect studios and science laboratories.

As a high school junior whose graduating class had 30 students, Luthi dropped out of chemistry class due to teacher-induced stress.

She later completed the basic chemistry course online, went on to study environmental biology at Emporia State University in Kansas, and now is studying for a doctorate’s degree at Northwestern University, among the top 10 chemistry departments in the country, she said.

Luthi told the GBS students that listening to negative teachers was meaningless.

“I wasted a lot of time on this. When you’re afraid of something, seek it and you’ll understand it better,” said Luthi, whose doctoral work was in studying nanotechnology as a possible treatment for cancer.

“As females in a male-dominated world, we bring unique perspectives and ideas to problems.

“Different ways of thinking is what drives science,” she said.

Noonan said a mentor veterinarian in her suburb near Kansas City, Kan., employed her from ages 11 to 25.

“A lot of kids want to be veterinarians, and the path there is long and hard, but most of us get to post-graduate degree programs,” Noonan said.

She is a supervisor and surgeon at Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove, where animal doctors from other clinics give her difficult cases, such as severe infections, cancers and endocrine diseases.

When applying to vet schools and for scholarships, she said universities look for people who exert themselves outside the classrooms, as well.

“Be your unique self, travel or teach Sunday school, but get high GPAs in high school and college. Take on life experiences to make you stand out,” Noonan said.

GBS student Caroline Satherlie said she has enjoyed studying science and mathematics.

“If I don’t understand something, my teachers here help me and I like it much more. I really like chemistry because it deals with math,” she said.

Jeff Rylander, instructional supervisor of science at GBS, said he believes the school’s STEM curriculum “was making a real difference across the country.”

“But ladies are still underrepresented in STEM fields. At GBS, we want to give them opportunities to begin pursing jobs in science, technology, engineering and math,” he said.