WISE SSEP Alumni: Where are they now?

Many women who graduated from WISE SSEP have pursued exciting careers in science, engineering and beyond! WISE NL is proud of the accomplishments of SSEP’s Alumni, and we hope that  SSEP participants will continue to be inspired by these women’s academic and career successes.

If you know a WISE SSEP graduate that you think should be featured here let us know! (ssep@wisenl.ca).

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Yasmine Dannaway

WISE SSEP 1991 Placement: Kidney and Cardiovascular Research Assistant, Faculty of Medicine

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Yasmine at her WISE SSEP placement in 1991

In 1991, the second year of WISE SSEP Yasmine Dannaway worked in the cardiovascular lab at the Health Sciences Centre. At this time, Yasmine was certain about pursuing a career in medicine and reflects back on her WISE SSEP experience: “that summer I learned a great deal more about myself than about rabbits and rats arteries and their heart disease – I learned that no matter what I put my mind to I could achieve.” She started Memorial in the Fall of 1992 pursuing a science degree, however after struggling with Math she decided that it was not the career path for her. After receiving encouragement from Faye and Carolyn (SSEP Co-founders), in 1993 Yasmine applied as Summer Coordinator of SSEP a position she held until 1997. “The job was fascinating; planning, problem solving, meeting new people, meeting professors! Through every activity I grew in confidence, I learned how to make decisions that positively impacted others and learned a good deal about my patience levels when the girls decided to play pranks whilst they stayed in residence!” 

Yasmine graduated in May 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts and after a summer at the University de Montreal improving her French, she returned to Memorial to complete a Bachelor of Education degree. After her last summer as coordinator for the SSEP, she moved to the UK in 1997 to take up a permanent teaching position in North London.

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Yasmine accepting the inaugural SSEP Excellence Award. From left: WISE SSEP Co-founder Faye Murrin, Yasmine Dannaway, WISE SSEP Co-founder Carolyn Emerson and WISE SSEP Co-Director Laura Halfyard.

Yasmine indicates that her experiences with WISE have never left her “I have always gone the extra mile to encourage the young women of every graduating class to access education beyond their dreams. I want each of the young people who pass through my fingers to know they are special, to know they count and to know they can contribute to the world. I learned that lesson two decades ago on a summer program that was WISE.”

Since teaching in London, Yasmine has worked in the education profession as an English, French, Psychology teacher, Head of Senior School, Careers Counselor, Guidance Counselor, Senior Advisor, Assistant Principal in addition to considerable volunteering with charities and humanitarian organizations. Yasmine and is currently Vice Principal of a school with 2400 students in Dubai.

Charlene Johnson

WISE SSEP 1992 Placement: Environmental Earth Science Research Assistant, Faculty of Science

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Charlene at her SSEP placement in 1992.

Charlene was a SSEP participant in 1992 as an environmental earth science research assistant. Throughout her career she continued to express support for the program, as she credited it as a major influence on her education and career choices. Charlene completed a Bachelor in Forest Engineering from the University of New Brunswick and Masters in Environmental Engineering from Memorial University.

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Charlene providing opening remarks at the WISE NL 25th Anniversary Conference in 2013.

In 2003 she began her political career  as an MHA in the Trinity- Bay de Verde district and became the youngest female ever elected to the NL House of Assembly. In 2007, she was appointed Minister of Environment and Conservation by Premier Danny Williams, encompassing both her environmental science and government roles.

In 2009, she became the first MHA to give birth while in office, setting a new precedent for maternity leave within legislature. In 2011, she became the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, as well as the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. In 2013, she was appointed multiple ministerial roles with Innovation, Business and Rural Development (IBRD), the Office of Public Engagement, and the Research and Development Corporation. In March 2014, she presented her first provincial budget as the Minister of Finance. In September 2014, Charlene left politics and moved to Brunei where her husband received a job. She currently lives there and you can follow her travels through her blog.

Christine Fontaine

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Christine at her SSEP placement in 2008.

Christine was a SSEP participant in 2008 in the behavioral neuroscience laboratory studying rat learning behavior. Christine always knew that she was interested in the brain and what makes it capable of learning something and remembering it for a particular amount of time.  During her SSEP placement, Christine quickly came to realize her passion for neuroscience and research. After SSEP she continued working in the laboratory as a research assistant throughout her Bachelor of Science Honors in Psychology. During this time, Christine realized how much SSEP had shaped her, and wanted to play a part in giving the same opportunity to more young women across the province, so she began volunteering as a Co-Director of SSEP in 2009. During her role as Co-Director she helped create and pilot outreach activities in Labrador, including holding a leadership conference in Happy Valley Goose Bay in 2010-2011, where young women in high school were exposed to post-secondary options both at home and away that would allow them to return home for work.

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Christine in her lab at the University of Victoria, 2015.

Christine maintains that SSEP gave her direction in her career path and gave her the opportunity to learn in a laboratory setting, which has been invaluable for her education and career. At the time of her convocation in 2013, Christine was awarded a NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Scholarship to pursue her interests in research at the University of Victoria, where she subsequently decided to directly pursue her PhD in neuroscience. When Christine moved to Victoria she stepped away from the Co-Director role but, remained as Director at Large until September 2015 when she became an Advisor for WISE NL’s new Mentorship Program. While at the University of Victoria Christine was awarded the prestigious Vanier Graduate Scholarship.

Christine is an enthusiastic young scientist who is well on her way to forging her path in neuroscience research. She hopes to one day take a post where she can continue to give young women the opportunity to become involved and discover their passion for science.