Alumnae Stories

Meet Cindy and Stephanie Richartz

Cindy and Stephanie RichartzCindy and Stephanie Richartz both received their Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering. Even though Cindy has been out in industry for a while and Stephanie has just started her career, both women have a passion for giving back to Illinois, especially for giving back to the WIE program. They want to ensure that Engineering keeps producing a steadily increasing flow of bright young women engineers through the Illinois pipeline.

Stephanie loves Illinois, “and I love – gosh – the person that Illinois has made me…Illinois is the most recent thing that shaped me into who I am.”Cindy has been away from Illinois for a while, but she shares that “something I’ve learned, especially being out in industry is the prestige of having an engineering education from Illinois.”

Cindy was also recognized with the WIE Champion Award for all of her work with Women in Engineering and her influence in obtaining sponsorship from her employer, Abbott, for Women in Engineering. She states that she’s “fortunate to work for a company that really supports STEM in a lot of different ways, and because of that, I’ve been able to continue really my passion for outreach and helping encourage women into the technical STEM fields.”

To read more about Cindy and Stephanie, check out this article by I-STEM!

Meet Joi Mondisa


In 2001, Joi Mondisa received her Bachelor of Science degree in General Engineering and began a career in industry. Later she added teaching at Triton College as an adjunct faculty member in the Engineering Technology Department to her resume.

With her teaching experience as inspiration, Joi left her full-time job in order to pursue a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Upon completion of her doctorate, Joi assumed a position as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and now serves as Assistant Professor in the same department.

Joi’s research focuses on examining mentoring experiences and intervention programs in higher education; designing and assessing learning experiences; and resilience, grit, and persistence in engineering education. Outside of work, Joi enjoys reading, bowling, and public engagement and volunteer work.

As a UIUC undergrad, Joi was involved with the WIE GAMES program and served as a counselor and also participated in the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP). Joi was recently interviewed by WIE and shared that, “I took a risk leaving my full-time job to go back to school and pursue my PhD in engineering Education and it was absolutely worth it!”

To hear more of Joi’s experience and expertise in being resilient, check out this article.

Meet Savannah Goodman

Savannah Goodman Savannah Goodmanreceived her Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 2014. She went on to receive her M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and is currently a Powerpack Analyst at Tesla. She works with commercial customers to appropriately size stationary storage systems that benefit both the customer and the power grid. Outside of work, Savannah likes to hike, ski and bike.

During her time at the University of Illinois, Savannah has held leadership positions in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE),
Engineering Council and US Green Building Council. She has also participated in various organizations such as Tau Beta Pi, Pi Beta Phi, Solar Decathlon and Engineers Without Borders.

Savannah was recently interviewed by WIE and this is her advice for all female engineers.

What is a piece of advice you have for students that you wish you had when you were in college?
Find study buddies in your classes – not only will they help you get through the tough Physics, TAM, etc. assignments, but they may also become your best friends!

Do you have any advice for those looking for an internship or full time industry job?
Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that you may think you’re “unqualified” for – odds are you are MUCH more qualified than you give yourself credit. If you are enthusiastic and you’ve done your research on the company, recruiters will be excited to talk to you even if you don’t have all of the skills listed for the job.

How has what you learned in college relate to your current work?
In a more general sense, Illinois does a phenomenal job of promoting group and team work, which is absolutely essential to being successful in the workplace.

More specifically, I took several classes pertaining to sustainability and looking at infrastructure/energy through a sustainable lens that helped me establish a fundamental understanding of the energy industry.

What are your aspirations for the future?
I want to help create a world in which we have 100% renewable energy and a carbon free economy. I’m working on incorporating battery storage into the power grid so that we can better integrate clean and distribute energy sources.

Meet Sakshi Srivastava

MeetSakshiSakshi Srivastava is currently a graduate student in Electrical Engineeirng at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed her Bacehlors at UIUC in 2015. In he inspiring talk “Being a Pioneer” at the 2016 TEDxUIUC she recounts her journey from a small Indian city to a large public university in the USA. Her flair for ‘engineering her way’ around situations coupled with her enthusiasm to try something new, made her a pioneer and taught her valuable life lessons.

Sakshi has also been a champion for the installation of new statue on campus featuring a female engineer. Her mission began in 2014 when she began to spread the world about her idea, inspired by an article how public art can reflect the thoughts of a community and foster unity. “Some people think this whole thing is a competition to ‘Grainger Bob,’ [the male statue outside Grainger library] but it’s not, it’s something for women in engineering, women who want to be engineers, women who want to bring change.” – The News-Gazette. The statue is intended to encourage more women to pursue engineering degrees she wants women to be seen as deserving of their accomplishments in these fields. The statue will be funded by Texas Instruments with the hopes of completion in the 2016-2017 school year.

Meet Beth Keser

MeetBethDr. Beth Keser received her B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Beth’s excellence in developing revolutionary electronic packages for semiconductor devices has resulted in 12 patents, 12 patents pending, and over 40 publications in the semiconductor industry. Based in San Diego, Beth leads the Fan-Out and Fan-In Wafer Level Packaging Technology Development and NPI Group at Qualcomm. Beth’s team has qualified over 50 products resulting in over 6 billion units shipped–technology consumers around the world enjoy in cell phones today.

Beth always wanted to go into industry after her Ph.D. She worked for Motorola in Tempe, AZ on Advance Electronic Packaging for 12 years before moving to Qualcomm in San Diego to run the Wafer Level Packaging team. Beth says being involved in professional societies has been extremely important for her career as they help to grow your network, give a better understanding of your field, and give self-confidence when people turn to you for advice and expertise. She is currently a very active member of IEEE, where she is a senior member.

Beth’s advice to current students is to dedicate the first 5 years of their career to becoming technically deep and a technical expert in their field. As women, it can be very easy to get pulled into program management and leadership roles with which leverage our natural teamwork skills. However, it will help you throughout your career to have a technical depth you develop right after graduation. There is plenty of time later for program and people management!

Meet Lilian Ficht

MeetLilianLilian Ficht graduated from the University of Illinois in 1987 with a BS in Electrical Engineering (bioengineering concentration) and from the University of Michigan in 1988 with a MS in Electrical Engineering (Systems). After graduation, she worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories/Lucent as a development engineer, system architect, and supervisor. Currently she works in the field of intellectual property law as a Patent Agent at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun, LLP, a boutique intellectual property law firm in Chicago. In this position, she secures domestic and foreign intellectual property rights; develops, assesses, and manages patent portfolios; investigates patentability and freedom-to-operate issues; and counsels clients. Lilian particularly enjoys continually learning about a variety of new technologies and inventions, and helping clients utilize intellectual property to achieve their business goals. She is also interested in exposing engineering students to patent law as a potential career path.

In her spare time, Lilian enjoys reading, music, and traveling, as well as returning to campus to spend time with her daughter (Rebecca Ficht, Bioengineering, class of 2017) and attend various events, such as EOH 2016!

Meet Carolyn Primus

MeetCarolynDr. Carolyn Primus is a graduate of the University of Illinois in Ceramic Engineering, and she holds MS and PhD degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California. Her 40-year career has spanned both coasts and includes diverse employment in government labs, private industry, and consulting. Most recently, she started a company manufacturing dental materials – Avalon Biomed Inc.. The company is devoted to manufacturing, distributing and marketing bioactive materials to improve oral health worldwide, with affordable clinically-effective products. The company mission includes donations to underserved communities worldwide.

Carolyn has published in peer-reviewed journals and has 13 patents. She serves as the US Expert on endodontic materials for the American Dental Association. Her volunteer work recently took her to Bangkok, where she visited the Grand Palace (and posed for this photo). As quoted by Carolyn, “I credit the University of Illinois curriculum as my foundation for my career in materials science.”

Carolyn and Gino Primus established the Primus Engineering Scholarship Fund in 2013 to provide scholarship support to deserving underprivileged female undergraduate engineering students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Carolyn continues to be an excellent role model and supports our Women in Engineering students.

Meet Sarah Laken

MeetSarahSarah Laken is a recent graduate in Bioengineering and recently began working full time as a scientist at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, IN. While at UIUC, she was involved in the Society of Women Engineers, Biomedical Engineering Society, and undergraduate research. Also, Sarah studied abroad, had a summer internship, and loved helping at WIE events!  At Eli Lilly, Sarah is putting her BioE degree to good use as a fermentation scientist in external manufacturing. She supports a total of three enzyme intermediates and one drug product that are produced through fermentation at a contract manufacturer. Though she has only been with the company for about 3 months, she has already visited the contract manufacturer in Austria twice! While in Austria, she was on-the-ground support for helping with technical transfers related to process improvements. Both visits were incredible opportunities for learning more about the processes she supports and for getting the chance to better understand the capabilities of the facility. Her engineering background had played a critical role in her understanding of process control, equipment capabilities, as well as being able to evaluate the biological system as a whole.  From her first few months on the job, here are a few key skills that Sarah learned in college that have helped her in her full time role:

  1. Communication is Key: Not only is communication crucial when working with people on the other side of the world, it is also a big part of working on a team and gaining visibility within management. Studying abroad helped her understand communication challenges across time zones and language barriers. Also, as a SWE Officer, Sarah would give monthly updates to the exec board – as a new hire she now gives monthly updates to her supervisor, director, and site head.
  2. Flexibility is Essential: Sarah has observed how quickly things can change in industry – whether it is due to management decisions, budgets, or technical issues,it is important to be able to be flexible and shift priorities when needed. For Sarah’s first visit to the contract manufacturer, she had less than a week’s notice for travel due to technical difficulties where support was needed.
  3. Be Vocal and Negotiate: One big takeaway from college is that you don’t get what you want unless you ask for it, apply for it, or reach out to get it. The same goes in industry. Simply by asking, Sarah has had the opportunity to recruit for Eli Lilly at UIUC and she is also being sponsored to attend the SWE National Conference in Nashville this October!

Meet Kimmi Slaughter

Meet KimmiKimmi Slaughter grew up in southern Illinois outside of St. Louis. After graduating with her BS in Mechanical Engineering, she took a job in the Chicago suburbs. She currently lives in Naperville and works for Navistar in Lisle in their rotational program. She does four 6-month long rotations in different areas of the company. She’s about to finish her first rotation in Procurement and after the new year she’ll start her next rotation in body engineering.

During her time at Illinois, Kimmi produced an impactful short film encouraging parents to support their daughter’s engineering interests (included below). She said the reason she made the video is because she took Art 350: Writing with Video second semester of her senior year. “I’ve always had a love of film production and this class finally gave me an outlet for it. The final in the class was a “This I Believe” project. I knew the only thing I felt strongly enough to compose a 6 minute long video about (that explains the lengthy runtime, I would have gotten the message across in a much shorter amount of time had there not been a length requirement) was women in engineering”. She sat down and wrote her “This I Believe” essay which eventually turned into the script used in the film. She knew she wanted to target parents as the target audience because of the influence they have on their daughters as they grow up.

She asked friends she knew from various engineering majors to be in the video because she prefers to be behind the camera rather than in front of it. She thinks a lot of people watching the video will see it as a series of interviews, but really those featured in the video are voicing Kimmi’s personal thoughts and experiences and giving a face to her story.

She was excited about the recognition her video received. She never realized people would like the video as much as they did! Kimmi is thrilled to spread the important message to support young women in engineering. Enjoy her video and spread the message!