Melissa Rosen Ceruolo SDM ’11 and the Women in System Design and Management (WiSDM) student group were honored as Graduate Women of Excellence at a reception hosted by the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education on Tuesday, April 23, at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge.
Ceruolo won for her leadership role in revitalizing WiSDM — a student-led organization started in 2009 by female students in the System Design and Management (SDM) program. WiSDM’s mission is to empower female leaders and to enhance the ongoing learning experience for SDM students and alumnae.
More than 140 students were nominated from the greater MIT community with 47 women and nine groups selected as winners. The nominees were evaluated based on leadership, activities, interactions with colleagues and professors, service to the MIT community and being a catalyst for change.
Tina Srivastava SDM ’11 accepted the award on behalf of the student group. The other WiSDM women who attended the event were Elizabeth Cilley Southerlan, Kathleen Voelbel, Leena Ratnam, Marianna Novellino and SDM staff member Melissa Parrillo.
“We are ecstatic and grateful to have received this recognition and to be given the opportunity to shine a brighter light on both WiSDM and SDM,” said Phatty Arbuckle SDM ’13, the media relations officer for the group. “In the next year, we hope to carry the torch passed on to us by Melissa and prior members to both continue our traditions and to also further our recognition. We have large shoes to fill, but we are definitely up to the challenge.”
SDM and WiSDM
SDM’s flexibility, as well as the ability to study both management and engineering, intrigued Ceruolo. After an intensive search for the right graduate program, Ceruolo said SDM fit best with her goals and interests. Under SDM’s commuter option, she could continue working at her full-time job at Helbling Precision Engineering, Inc. in Kendall Square, where she develops medical technology.
“When we broke into teams in the January Bootcamp, I noticed that there were very few of us [women],” Ceruolo said. “I wanted to get to know the other women in the program. I was working in a predominately male field, and there were these amazing women in SDM that I wanted to connect with. I started to think of ways that we could get to know each other and enhance our network.”
Ceruolo inquired about WiSDM and revived the program after what had been a brief period of inactivity. She soon began to organize events for the group. WiSDM’s goal is to increase the number of female students in the program, inspire women to become engineering and technical leaders and to promote the SDM program as a whole.
“There is no reason why the SDM program shouldn’t be 50 percent men and 50 percent women,” Cerulo said, adding that they hope to achieve this goal by 2017.
WiSDM has helped organize the MIT Systems Thinking Conference, securing women engineering leaders as keynote speakers. The group also collaborates with SWIM (Sloan Women in Management) and GWAMIT (Graduate Women at MIT) and coordinates other events such group yoga, mentoring and speaker programs. WiSDM even created a marketing video for SDM this year.
“I’m so happy that I did this,” Ceruolo said of rejuvenating the group. “The relationships I’ve made and the women that I have met are awesome. We’ve bonded … I’ve made lifelong friends and I know we will stay in touch after we graduate in June.”