Keynote speakers announced for the JA Passport to STEM: A Virtual Experience

Grand Rapids, Mich. – Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes is pleased to announce its keynote speakers for the upcoming JA Passport to STEM: A Virtual Experience event taking place on May 6, 2021. Four keynote speakers from high-level STEM fields will be sharing their career paths and experience, their STEM knowledge and inspiration to encourage middle school students to pursue a career in STEM. Those featured are, Joi Harris, Senior Vice-President of Major Enterprise Projects at DTE Energy; Jessica Frick, Director of Managed Applications at Liquid Web; Helen Schramer, Principal Scientist at Pfizer and Sanyogita Shamsunder, Vice President of Product Strategy, Innovation & Operations at Verizon.

Over 1,000 students will be participating in the event from across West, Southwest, Northern and Mid-Michigan as well as from the upper-peninsula. “Because of the pandemic, we had to take our traditional STEM event and reimagine it as a virtual event,” said William Coderre, President & CEO, JA of the Michigan Great Lakes. “However, the benefit is that we can introduce students from all over the state to fields in STEM and hopefully inspire them toward big aspirations.”

The first hour of the event will be formatted as a TED-style talk presentation with the four keynote speakers. The featured speakers’ information is as follows:

Joi Harris, Senior Vice-President of Major Enterprise Projects, DTE Energy – Joi Harris is vice president of Major Enterprise Projects for DTE Energy. Harris is responsible for leading the project management, planning and execution of the company’s largest initiatives, including the construction of DTE’s new renewable energy projects, and projects in Power Generation, Distribution, Renewable, Nuclear and Gas Midstream platforms. Harris has been with DTE Energy since 1991 and has served in leadership positions in a number of areas including distribution field operations, system control and transmission operations. Harris earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration from Wayne State University. She serves as vice president of the board of directors for the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). She is a member of the Wayne State University’s College of Engineering Board of Visitors and Industrial Engineering Advisory Board and has participated in the Cornerstone Partnership Program. Harris was chosen by the Michigan Chronicle as one of the "Women of Excellence,” recognized by “Who's Who in Black Detroit,” and honored at the 2016 Women of Color STEM Conference for her career achievements.

Jessica Frick, Director of Managed Applications, Liquid Web – Jessica Frick is the director of managed applications at Liquid Web, overseeing a multimillion dollar portion of the business that is focused on bringing the best web applications to consumers with the best performance possible. Prior to her current role, she has served as an operations executive for a software and digital commerce company. Frick earned her bachelor’s degree from Rollins College.

Helen Schramer, Principal Scientist, Pfizer – Helen Schramer serves as a principal scientist at Pfizer, Inc. In her role as principal scientist, Schramer provides technical support for new and existing drug products, including the COVID-19 vaccine. She served on the global team responsible for bringing the COVID-19 vaccine from development to full scale manufacturing, and designs manufacturing processes, optimizes existing processes to improve robustness, efficiency, and quality. Helen holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Illinois State University with double minors in Biology and Mathematics. She began her career at Pfizer when she participated in the internship program immediately upon graduating from college. Upon conclusion of the internship, Helen was hired to a full-time position as a chemist in the Quality Control Laboratories in 1999, and later progressed to a project manager role in the Corporate Quality Analytical Reference Standards groups, followed by becoming a Technical Team Leader within Quality Control. She joined the Technical Services Group in 2005 as a scientist.

Sanyogita Shamsunder, Vice President of Product Strategy, Innovation & Operations, Verizon - Sanyogita Shamaunder is the vice president of Product Strategy and Operations with a successful 14-year track record developing profitable and competitive new technology for Verizon. Shamsunder leads an impressive technology portfolio that has encompassed augmented reality, computer vision, location, quantum, and other security technology projects. She manages a diverse team of engineers, technologists, product managers. Previously, she led Verizon’s early 5G network technology development and trials, launched the first 4G devices as well as led various spectrum initiatives in collaboration with government and industry groups. She received her MBA from the Wharton School and Ph.D in electrical engineering and math from the University of Virginia. Shamsunder currently serves on the advisory board for the Maxlinear Corporation, as an Eyeway Vision Board Observer, on the CTA Technology Council, on the Rutgers Electrical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board, and on The Fabric Thought Leadership Council.

After learning from the keynote speakers, students will log into break-out groups led by women in STEM fields from across West Michigan who will share more about career exploration and planning and STEM possibilities utilizing an abridged version of the JA It’s My Future curriculum. Over 100 volunteers will be leading students in this exploration. This event is possible due to the support of our Series Presenting Sponsor, DTE, our Title Sponsor, Verizon and our Supporting Sponsors: TCF Bank, Priority Health and Meijer of Northern Michigan.

Junior Achievement’s mission is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy by providing work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs to K-12 students. If you would like to support Junior Achievement of The Michigan Great Lakes either financially or by volunteering, please call 616-575-9080.

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