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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 service will be honored with Rising Star Awards at NJBIA’s 7th Annual Women Business Leaders Forum, Sept. 22–24.

The event is New Jersey’s largest professional women’s conference, which each year brings together hundreds of women and men for engaging workshops, dynamic TED-style talks and inspiring keynotes from nationally renowned speakers. This year, the WBLF will be a hybrid event featuring both virtual and live gatherings, including the in-person opening reception at 6 p.m. on Sept. 22 at The Palace at Somerset when the Rising Star winners will be introduced.

“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 students who have distinguished themselves at New Jersey institutions of higher education and are destined for great professional success,” she said.

The five Rising Star winners are:

Elizabeth O’Hara, Rider University

Elizabeth O’Hara, of Harleysville, Pennsylvania, is a senior at Rider University, where she is double majoring in computer science and graphic design while also serving as the president of the Student Government Association.

As an undergraduate, O’Hara has also been actively involved in Unified Sports, which brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same sports team to foster inclusion and friendships.  During her tenure as president of the Unified Sports Club at Rider, the university earned recognition from Special Olympics as a National Banner School for demonstrating a commitment to inclusion and meeting 10 standards of excellence.

After she graduates from Rider in May 2022, O’Hara intends to earn a master’s in assistive technology engineering and eventually focus her passion for helping people with disabilities into a career designing and developing software for the disabled.

Rohan Dhote, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Rohan Dhote, of Parsippany, is a Dean’s List scholar who aspires to an executive position in the innovation sector after he graduates in January with a degree in finance and a minor in business analytics from Ramapo College of New Jersey.

As an undergraduate, Dhote has gained practical business experience through his internship at the Small Business Development Center at Ramapo College, which provides free business management counseling and informational services to aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Bergen County area. At the SBDC, Dhote is part of the Economic Recovery Taskforce helping small businesses navigate the COVID-19 business environment, assisting them with loan applications, and aiding them in securing investment capital.

Dhote is also a student representative on the Board of Governors of the Ramapo College Foundation, which oversees a $20 million investment portfolio. Additionally, he is involved with the college’s Roadrunner Financial Group, which operates as a Student-Managed Investment Fund that actively manages a $50,000 portfolio on behalf of the Anisfield School of Business.

Angeline Gil, Berkeley College

Angeline Gil, of Paterson, is an honors student who will graduate from Berkeley College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Health Services Management in December 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired her to pursue a career in public health, where she would like to one day have a leadership role at a New Jersey hospital.

At Berkeley, Gil serves on the executive board of the Berkeley College chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, an organization whose members are selected by their colleges based on academic standing or leadership potential. Gil is also part of the college’s Honors Program for high-achieving students, and active in the Berkeley College Volunteer Leadership Team, where she helps community organizations with numerous events, such as Field Day for the Boys & Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic.

Taiphane Orange, Brookdale Community College

Taiphane Orange, of Neptune, is a political science major at Brookdale Community College and would like to one day work for a nonprofit or community organization dedicated to helping people.

At Brookdale, Orange has served alternately as vice president and secretary of the Black Student Union and is also a public relations associate responsible for the social media accounts of the school’s Educational Opportunity Fund Student Alliance.

Additionally, Orange is a chair member of Phi Theta Kappa at Brookdale for honor in action and college projects, and she volunteered at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune prior to the pandemic. Orange will graduate in May 2022.

Nohemi Hernandez, Montclair State University

Nohemi Hernandez, who grew up in Union City, is a senior at Montclair State University where she is majoring in Family Science and Human Development, with a concentration in Family Services, and minoring in Child Advocacy and Policy. Her career goal is to be a social worker for the State Division of Child Protection and Permanency after graduating in May 2022.

Drawing on her own firsthand experiences in foster care, Hernandez has been active in helping other youths navigate the challenges of the foster care system. She has been a speaker for the annual Aging Out Youth Seminar for teens in the foster care system and a leader in MSU’s Jumpstart program, which helps pre-K children from low-income communities develop essential language and social skills.

Hernandez says her volunteer work at Jumpstart Newark during 2018 and 2019 reinforced her interest in the child advocacy field and working directly with disadvantaged children to improve their lives. However, her commitment to helping the less fortunate predates her college experience. In high school, she frequently volunteered at soup kitchens as a member of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) and on her own time.


For more information about the three-day NJBIA Women Business Leaders Forum, including the schedule of events for Sept. 22–24, featured speakers and online registration details, go here.