EAW’s Women in STEM: The 2022 CAEL Conference in Chicago

In choosing three adult learners from Education at Work to attend the CAEL Conference the criteria were simple; students over a certain age (26), who had taken a non-traditional path through education. In inquiring around the various locations we were able to find our students, and by chance, each of them was a woman, and also by chance, each was working towards an undergraduate degree in STEM.

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In November of 2022, Madeline Kaye, Sara Gonzales and Abigail Ortega packed their bags and flew to meet up in Chicago for the 2022 CAEL Conference.

Here the students told their unique stories, and how they each found a community of advocates at EAW that support their personal, professional and academic goals.

Sara Gonzales

Sara Gonzales is a Student Agent at EAW's Utah campus. She is a wife and a mother and is returning to school after taking years off to start her family. Sara is earning her degree in Network Management Technology at Weber State in Utah.

"From the flight reservation to booking the hotels, we were taken care of so well on our trip to the CAEL conference in Chicago. I had never been to Chicago and enjoyed seeing the tall buildings, eating delicious pizza, Italian food, extraordinary coffee and, of course, one of the most fascinating things, the trains that ran above us in Downtown Chicago! When we went to the Palmer House Hotel the architecture inside the building was amazing! I got to see the famed Tiffany & Co. bronze peacock door too!

To say that I was excited to be at the CAEL conference is an understatement. The feeling of being in front of a group of people and talking about my story with Education At Work has been a feeling that I'll never forget.

As we attended other events at the CAEL conference and met with other successful people, we got to hear how powerful their stories are and how they got to their positions today. I came back home with a different mindset that I too can achieve my goals and become as successful as those featured in the conference.

Overall I loved Chicago and having the opportunity to attend the CAEL conference. It has been an experience I will remember for the rest of my life!"

Abigail Ortega

Abigail is currently attending UTEP, studying electrical engineering. She took a break after graduating high school because she was burned out, and found she wasn't sure what to study. In her late 20s she decided to return to college and is now studying Electrical Engineering.

"My name is Abigail Ortega, most people call me Abbie.

I am currently an undergraduate at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). I'm pursuing my BS in Electrical Engineering. I am a student agent for Education at Work working for one of our high profile tech clients.

This year I had the privilege of being invited to the CAEL conference. Throughout my time there, I went to a variety of events where I got to connect with other adult learners who had also gone through the similar non-linear paths as myself. I was able to meet with different partners from all over the nation and made new connections within our organization.

Overall it was a very welcoming experience and eye opening to all the types of opportunity and support there is for adult learners.

I was also able to meet with other student agents in EAW. Getting to know other women in STEM was amazing - we connected through our personal experiences. Everyone's story and the life events that brought them to CAEL was overall helpful towards my own educational/career path.

I am very grateful for the experience and would gladly do it again!"

Madeline Kaye

Madeline has been with EAW since 2021, started as a student agent and now is a trainer. She is currently attending Weber State in Utah studying Management in Computer Systems.

"The CAEL conference was informative and inspiring even during the fun events, such as the ice cream social, or the knowledge exchange hub.

This was my first year in attendance. The reception was warm and everyone was very conversational. I walked away better informed and inspired to work with my new network towards the same shared goals.

One beautiful thing about this conference was how it brought together individuals who have walked a mile in the shoes of those they support.

Some of the notable organizations represented were Strada, CAEL, National University, Purdue University, IBM, AWS, CSU, College Board, CompTIA, and many other regional community colleges and universities. Hearing about the stories of their challenges and sweet success was inspirational.

Everyone was very understanding of adult learners' journey and through various round-table discussions, we each walked away with an additional thought and goal to support for our learners."