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Five future business leaders who are standouts at New Jersey colleges and universities because of their academic work, leadership and community involvement will be honored with Rising Star awards at NJBIA’s 6th Annual Women Business Leaders Forum, Sept. 8–11.

The event, whose theme this year is “Ready to Launch,” is New Jersey’s largest professional women’s conference. Traditionally a one-day event, the 2020 conference has pivoted to become a virtual gathering because of COVID-19 and expanded to four days of engaging workshops, TED-style talks, keynotes and virtual “Zoom-room” networking.

Bloomberg TV anchor Emily Chang, the bestselling author of “Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley,” will deliver a keynote on Sept. 9, and Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall, the first African American woman to lead an NBA team, will deliver the closing-day keynote on Sept. 11.

The Rising Star Award winners will be honored on Thursday, Sept. 10, following the various career development breakout sessions.

“NJBIA’s Rising Star Awards honor students who have demonstrated a passion for their career path, academic success, and a commitment to volunteering in their communities during their undergraduate careers,” NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka said.

“This year, we are proud to recognize the accomplishments of five women who have distinguished themselves at New Jersey institutions of higher education and are destined for great professional success.”

The 2020 winners are listed below in alphabetical order.

Clara Chen, of Moonpark, Ca. Chen is Harvard University graduate currently training at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine (HMSOM) to become a pediatric gastroenterologist. During her gap year before medical school, she worked at a Boston neuroimaging startup, an experience that has inspired her career plan to seek an alternative pathway to attain an MBA after she has completed medical school and established herself as a doctor. Ultimately, she would like to use her future medical and business degrees to form a startup focused on improving gastrointestinal health. Chen has shined in numerous leadership positions at both Harvard and HMSOM, including working with HMSOM deans and local health leaders to create a student-run health clinic offering free preventative healthcare to the community.

Ankita Kodali, of Union. Kodali is a senior at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, where she is double majoring in accounting and finance, with a minor in economics. A regional winner of the Future Business Leaders of America’s accounting competition, Kodali has worked closely with Rutgers faculty to launch a program for high school students in disadvantaged socio-economic areas in order to provide experiential learning opportunities that will help them become successful business leaders. Kodali plans to earn her CPA license after graduating from Rutgers in May 2021 and is excited to have already accepted the offer of a full-time position at Deloitte, where she will launch her career after graduation.

Gabrielle Marie Peralta, of Newark. Peralta, a business administration major at Berkeley College, honed her leadership skills in the U.S. Marine Corps, where she learned the ins and outs of supply shipping and receiving by working in the warehouse supplying her military unit. As president of the Student Government Association at Berkeley’s Woodland Park campus, she oversees all student clubs, serving as a bridge between students, faculty and staff. She also has served as president of the Spartans club at Berkeley, a branch of the Student Veterans of America, where she has spearheaded numerous community service projects. After graduating in May 2021, Peralta plans to combine her love of baking with her expertise in distribution and logistics to start her own bakery truck business.

Olivia Strama, of Wallington. Strama is a Berkeley College sophomore majoring in criminal justice who aspires to be a law enforcement officer. As a college freshman, she began an internship with the Paramus Police, which gave her the opportunity to shadow police officers, detectives and captains in various divisions. A student ambassador at Berkeley, Strama is also an active community volunteer who was recognized in 2019 as being among the Berkeley students with the most community service hours. After graduation in May 2023, she intends to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, cybersecurity or homeland security.

Lauren Valentine, of Bloomfield. A graduate of Boston College, Valentine is currently training to be a physician at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine (HMSOM). As the co-founder and student leader of HMSOM’s COVID care team, she created a virtual platform that connects front-line providers from the Hackensack Meridian Health network to medical students who provide fun and educational online programs for healthcare workers’ children, including helping them with schoolwork during the pandemic. Valentine also volunteers as a student mentor of incoming medical students at HMSOM, and has volunteered for numerous community service projects at both HMSOM and Boston College.

More details about the 6th Annual Women Business Leader’s Conference, including registration information, can be found here.

NJBIA partners who help make the event possible include: Archer Law, Atlantic Health, AT&T, Berkeley College, Bristol Myers Squibb, Fidelity, Girl Scouts of New Jersey, Horizon, Investors Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Lindabury McCormick Estabrook & Cooper, Newark Venture Partners, Nisivoccia LLP, NJM, Ocean First Bank, Panasonic, PNC Bank, Prager Metis, Primepoint HRMS & Payroll, RWJBarnabas Health, and TD Bank.