Inspirational Series

World Leaders Forum Inspirational Series

Featuring Dr. Shawna Pandya

Hosted by Entrepreneur Jacqueline Ruiz

The World Leaders Forum Inspirational Series welcomed Dr. Shawna Pandya, a physician, aquanaut, and scientist-astronaut candidate from Alberta, Canada to Judson University in Elgin. The main event was held at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at the University’s Herrick Chapel, 1151 N. State Street in Elgin. Entrepreneur Jacqueline Ruiz hosted this event.

Judson University welcomed 400 guests to the World Leaders Forum Inspirational Series to hear from Dr. Shawna Pandya. Pandya also participated in a panel discussion with women in STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics—leadership roles who discussed their successes, challenges, and advice to others in pursuing their career goals.

 The Panelists included:

  • Alicia Ponce, architect, founder, and Design Principal of APMonarch
  • Tammera Holmes, CEO of AeroStar Avion Institute NFP + AeroStar Consulting Corporation
  • Erin Miller, pilot, and granddaughter of a female Airforce service pilot

The entire presentation made an impression on Judson University President Gene Crume.

“There are a lot of great programs and amazing speakers this fall across many campuses,” he said. “But, in terms of leadership, women in science, and the STEAM fields, there was no presentation better than this one we had at Judson. This presentation was the first time that Dr. Pandya spoke in Chicago. The rest of the panelists were amazing representatives from their fields, and each woman had a positive and uplifting story to share with our audience.”

Ruiz added that it was an honor to gather these women from diverse backgrounds and careers onto the university’s stage. “Hearing their conversations, key takeaways, insights—everything that we experienced was wonderful while we were making a difference in students’ lives,” she said. “That to me makes me very proud and honored to be the host of the World Leaders Forum Inspirational Series.”

The event with Dr. Pandya is the fifth Inspirational Series event and the second developed and hosted with Jacqueline Ruiz, an entrepreneur, author, and Latina pilot. Previous Inspirational Speakers at the event have included Hispanic actor and director Edward James Olmos magician Jim Munroe in 2017, Olympic champion Mary Lou Retton in 2016, and Australian-American Christian evangelist and motivational speaker Nick Vujicic in 2015.

Proceeds from this event funded leadership, entrepreneurship, diversity, and RISE program scholarships for students at Judson University.

Watch for details on our next event soon!

About The Speaker

Female portrait

Dr. Shawna Pandya

Dr. Shawna Pandya is a physician, aquanaut, scientist-astronaut candidate with the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), skydiver, pilot-in-training, VP Immersive Medicine with Luxsonic Technologies, Medical advisor at Above Space Development Corporation and Fellow of the Explorers Club. She is the Director of IIAS’ Space Medicine Group, Chief Instructor for IIAS’ Operational Space Medicine course, a host of the World Extreme Medicine’s podcast series, Primary Investigator for the Shad Canada-Blue Origin student microgravity competition, member of the AIAA ASCEND Guiding Coalition, and sessional lecturer for “Technology and the Future of Medicine,” at the University of Alberta.

Dr. Pandya was on the first crew to test a commercial spacesuit in zero gravity in 2015. She earned her aquanaut designation on the 2019 NEPTUNE (Nautical Experiments in Physiology, Technology and Underwater Exploration) mission and completed a second aquanaut mission, NEP2NE in May 2023. Her expeditions have been previously captured in the 2019 Land Rover short, “Another World,” released with the Apollo 11: First Steps film, and in the 2022 FIGS Space Navy and Mauve space medicine-themed campaign. She interned at ESA’s European Astronaut Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Her publications include a book chapter on psychological resilience in long-duration spaceflight. In 2021, she was granted an Honorary Fellowship in Extreme and Wilderness Medicine and named to the Canadian Women’s Executive Network’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. Her work is permanently exhibited at the Ontario Science Center alongside Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space. In 2022, Dr. Pandya was named to the Explorers’ Club’s “50 Explorers Changing the World.”

About The Host

Jacqueline Ruiz

Jacqueline Ruiz

Jacqueline Ruiz is a visionary social entrepreneur that has created an enterprise of inspiration. With more than 20 years of experience in the marketing and public relations industry, she has created two successful award-winning companies, established two nonprofit organizations, published 32 books, the largest collection of Latina stories in a book anthology series in the world, and held events on four continents. She has received over 30 awards for her contributions and business acumen. She represents the 1.6% of women entrepreneurs with over seven figures in the United States.

Being a two-time cancer survivor activated her sense of urgency to serve others and live life to the fullest. Jacqueline is one of the few Latina sports airplane pilots in the United States and recently collaborated with College Park Aviation Museum to create the historic first-ever exhibit in the world to honor Latinas in Aviation.

Social Entrepreneur

Become a Sponsor

Help Ignite and Inspire Tomorrow’s Leaders

Becoming a Sponsor

An Inspirational Series Sponsorship offers you, your company, church or foundation the opportunity to serve as a partner for this premier event. Proceeds from this event will fund leadership, entrepreneurship, diversity, and RISE program scholarships for students at Judson University.


Opportunities for business and community sponsors include event tickets, a meet-and-greet reception, photographs with the panelists, special commemorative gift, company recognition, and premier seating. You can also choose to sponsor Judson students to attend the event free of charge. To learn more, please see the sponsorship flyer below or contact us.

Contact Us


Kristen Egan
Vice President of Advancement and Alumni

Past Inspirational Speakers

Jim Munroe


Author and
Cancer Survivor

Mary Lou Retton

Mary Lou Retton

1984 Gold Olympic
Medal Winner

Nick Vojicic

Nick Vujicic



Edward James Olmos