On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, Meredith Mentors hosted a virtual webinar panel featuring alumnae in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The panel consisted of alumnae Amber Pittman Barnes, ’00, Mandy Steele Johnson, ’96, Jessie Rivers, ’71, and Melissa Bland Turner, ’08. The alumnae discussed their time at Meredith College, their careers, answered questions, and advised students in attendance.
Rivers was the first female chemist to earn her Ph.D. at North Carolina State University. For 25 years now, Rivers has worked as a chemist for Jim Leek Associates, a food quality and safety testing laboratory.
Rivers has learned the importance of adapting and encourages students to do the same throughout their careers and life.
“Look for a mentor. Be flexible. If you have to make a big change in your life, you’ll get over it. You’ll get through it. Just keep trying,” said Rivers.
Johnson, who is now an optometrist, initially entered Meredith on a Teaching Fellows scholarship with a plan to teach high school math, but after taking Biology 101, she found herself falling in love with science. After encouragement from her faculty advisor and professors, Johnson decided the medical field would best suit her.
After years of working in the eye care industry, Johnson opened Triangle Eye Consultants with her friend and colleague in July 2021.
“My voice was probably the greatest gift Meredith ever gave me beyond my education. It was my comfort in who I am as a person, and embracing that and loving that has carried me through the last 20 years without question,” said Johnson.
Turner, a precision medicine pharmacist, is the founder and CEO of Tarheel PGx Consulting, LLC. Her business helps patients make more informed decisions about medications based on their genetic profiles. She launched Tarheel PGx Consulting in June 2021, after leaving a job she had been unhappy with for years.
“I started this business to help people get on the right medications and do it the first time rather than months or years down the road. And there’s just so many different areas that this technology can help,” said Turner. “I love what I’m doing now.”
She encouraged students to learn as much as they can because they never know what they might end up doing.
Barnes was heavily involved with campus life while attending Meredith and always had a love for biology. A few years after graduating, she worked in a lab but soon realized she wanted to interact with people instead.
She ended up teaching classes at Winston-Salem State University and became an adjunct professor in biology at Meredith College. Now Barnes is a senior director of global medical writing at Union Chimique Belge (UCB), a pharmaceutical company.
Barnes’ advice to students was to figure out what they value, whether it be salary, the type of job, or their colleagues.
Johnson offered a final piece of advice. “Please use your voices. No matter what career path you go in, don’t be bashful,” she said. “You are worth what you’re worth. Don’t ever doubt that, no matter what direction you go in your STEM field.”