Keep Moving and Have Fun: Lessons from Women on the Rise

Last month, the Danforth Center’s new community resource group, International Women in Science, (IWIS) hosted a Women on the Rise luncheon for the community at the Danforth Center. The event created an inspiring day that aimed to empower women to build a better future through education, leadership development, and community actions. 

Around 70 women attended the luncheon in the McDonnell Atrium, where guests spent some time connecting over mocktails before sitting down to enjoy lunch. The program featured Nadine Alameh, Ph.D., a world-renowned geospatial expert and the inaugural Executive Director of Taylor Geospatial Institute.

Nadine was joined onstage by two Danforth Center IWIS members; Research Associate Caroline Henry and Graduate Student Rachel Jouni from the Meyers laboratory led the conversation, during which Nadine offered advice and shared stories about her life and career.

Nadine has an impressive resume and has received many honors during her career, including the 2023 Women in Technology Leadership Award in the nonprofit and academia category, the 2022 Geospatial World Diversity Champion of the Year Award and the 2019 Geomatics Canada Leadership in Diversity Award. She holds doctorate and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned her bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

Growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, Nadine overcame incredible obstacles to reach these achievements. During her visit, she spoke about well-meaning relatives who discouraged her from applying to attend university, fearing that she would end up disappointed and heartbroken if she was rejected or unable to afford the cost of attendance. Despite these messages, she proceeded to apply to pursue her goals. She was accepted and began a challenging but successful journey that has led her to where she is today. Nadine acknowledged that women may not always have the ideal systems or support in place to pursue their goals. Despite the doubt that this can breed, she encouraged everyone to press forward, one step at a time. “Trust yourself, and keep moving,” she said.

Nadine emphasized the importance of finding moments of joy and levity as part of your journey. One of her hobbies is teaching dabke, a style of dance popular in many Arabic countries, so in keeping with her advice, Nadine ended the luncheon by leading everyone in a dance lesson. Attendees got up from their tables and joined in as she demonstrated. “Thank you for having me, this is the most fun I’ve ever had at a business lunch!” she laughed. 

The Women on the Rise lunch ended with one final surprise; several lucky attendees were selected to take the floral arrangements home with them. 

Women on the Rise was established in 2014 by the Center’s Vice President for Research, Toni Kutchan, PhD. This was the first event since the pandemic and organized by IWIS.

“I hope that the women scientists of the Center see in Nadine an amazing role model for success not only in science, but in life” Toni said. “Even under the intense professional pressure that a career in science can bring, we should strive to remain kind, happy and spirited. As Nadine said, we may have all taken very different paths to get there, but we are at the table. And we belong there!”