A PennWest California senior has earned a $10,000 scholarship from the American Meteorological Society for her work in Cal’s meteorology department.

Justina Arena, a double major in meteorology and climate studies, earned the Women in Science Scholarship, which is awarded annually to support women in the atmospheric, oceanic, and climate sciences, and related areas of study.

The scholarship is awarded after an extensive review from an all-women panel. Recipients must be a senior in their major and pursuing a degree in atmospheric or related sciences with a 3.0 or better GPA.

Arena said that she was informed about the award by one of her professors and applied after finding that she qualified for consideration.

“I was kind of taken aback because I didn’t expect it,” she said. “It still took two weeks to fully process that I won because it’s such a big deal.”

Arena is a non-traditional student who returned to academics in 2019. She said her professors at PennWest California have been key in her return to college.

“All the professors in this department are very supportive and encouraging,” she said. “It’s nice whenever you have such a broad support system, and Cal does a really good job having that support system. Everyone knows everyone.”

Arena said that a scholarship such as the Women in Science Award are important to break stigma of STEM studies being for men only. While the gender gap in meteorology has shrunk over the recent years, Arena noted that it is still a male-dominated field. According to the American Meteorological Society, women make up 29 percent of all broadcast meteorologist positions. The number of women in non-broadcast meteorology positions is lower.

‘I believe it’s important for the younger generation of women looking at the sciences to see the ‘bit older’ generation succeed because the gender gap is still very lopsided in STEM fields,” she said. “A lot of times, women get discouraged because we’re supposed to be pretty and not smart. They get caught up in that and then move majors or drop out.”

Arena gives back to her fellow students by serving as a Supplemental Instruction leader.

Justina has been a valuable asset in supporting her peers and ensuring the work we do in Student Outreach and Success is available to all,” said Jill Loop, Executive Director of Student Outreach and Success. “As a Supplemental Instruction leader for three courses so far, Justina has received excellent peer reviews.”

“But beyond her support of fellow students and her own performance in the classroom, Justina is also a working mother. She is an excellent example of the supportive community and growth in and out of the classroom that can be found at PennWest California.”