Celebrating the women of the Mater Dei community in honor of Women’s History Month


Photos courtesy of Zeyda Marsh, Madison Piechowski, and Lauren Biagiotti

THE WOMEN OF MATER DEI: Mandarin Teacher and World Languages Department Chair Zeyda Marsh (left), Alumna Madison Piechowski ’14 (center), and current student Lauren Biagiotti ’22 (right) embody the Monarch values of honor, glory, and, love and inspire the next generation of women in the Mater Dei community through their dedication to education, service, and their professional goals.

Since 1987, March has been designated as Women’s History Month in the United States. The month is dedicated to celebrating, honoring, and reflecting on women’s contributions to history, culture, and society.

Each year, the National Women’s History Alliance decides a new theme for Women’s History Month. This year, the alliance has selected the theme “Women Providing Healing, Providing Hope.” According to their website, the theme is “both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.”

In honor of Women’s History Month, The Scarlet Scroll has selected three influential women from the Mater Dei community to highlight: faculty member, Zeyda Marsh, alumna Madison Piechowski ‘14, and current student Lauren Biagiotti ‘22.

Each of these women have made significant contributions to their communities and within their specific fields. Their actions serve as an inspiration to the young women of Mater Dei. As they continue to make a positive impact on the community at large, our publication aims to showcase all they have and continue to achieve.

RECOGNIZED FOR HER ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Ambassador of the US in El Salvador, Anne Patterson (middle), awards Zeyda Marsh (furthest left) The Meritorious Service Medal. The award was given to Marsh for her service as Military, Defense, Naval, and Air Attaché in Washington D.C.. Marsh recalls her experience as one of the sole women in her field fondly and feels as though she was successfully able to change the mindsets of her male peers, who were not used to working with other women. “There was a lot of changing of minds, which eventually they did,” Marsh said. “I earned their respect. A woman earns everybody else’s respect through their actions. And by leading by example, that’s my motto, lead by example.” (Photo courtesy of Zeyda Marsh)

Zeyda Marsh, World Languages Department Chair

Mandarin Teacher and World Languages Department Chair Zeyda Marsh was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Marsh was a dedicated student interested in pursuing political science and furthering her education in any way possible. After graduating high school, Marsh decided to further develop her education at Fu Hsing Kang Military School in Taiwan. The educational path she took was not common, especially for a woman, but Marsh was passionate and prepared to do whatever it took to get ahead.

“I would be the very first Salvadoran born foreign woman born studying in a Taiwanese Military Academy,” Marsh said. “I was also the only and first ever foreign student in this [specific] Military Academy. I was paving the way for other women behind me.”

Marsh took advantage of the opportunities offered to her. A devoted and determined student, she became the first female infantry officer for the Salvadoran Army. While in school, Marsh improved her knowledge of political science.

“I’ve always been curious about how the world works, and how bilateral relations between countries are important to maintain global peace,” Marsh said.

After graduating from the military academy, Marsh returned to El Salvador, which was in the midst of a twelve-year civil war. Marsh was determined to find ways to end the war peacefully and worked in psychological operations. While in this environment, Marsh became aware of an opening as an assistant military attaché in Washington D.C., a position where one represents the armed forces in another country. Marsh decided that this was a position she wanted.

At that point, Marsh was a second lieutenant, which is the lowest ranking position in the army. Marsh knew that to get the position, she would have to advocate for herself, especially because of her gender. At this point, Marsh spoke English, Chinese, and Spanish. Her ability to speak multiple languages was critical for this position. Marsh also felt that because of her gender she could bring a vital point of view to the primarily male dominated field. As a woman and recent college graduate, Marsh knew she would have to make a strong impression.

“I’ve always wanted to do things that not many people [want] to do. I remember one test I took in high school. It asked: If you find a huge wall, what would you do? Would you climb it? Would you go back? I said I would climb it because I want to see what’s on the other side. I’ve always been very curious,” Marsh said. “I went to the Minister of Defense, a five star general, and I said, ‘I’d like to apply for the assistant military attaché position. I just graduated from Fu Hsing Kang. I am fluent in Spanish, English, and Chinese; I’m a woman, and I know I can make a difference for El Salvador.”

Marsh’s actions were successful, and soon after she was sent to Washington D.C. as a junior officer in the Embassy of El Salvador. Marsh worked as a military assistant, defense, air, and naval attaché, handling bilateral relations between El Salvador and the United States. A hard worker and committed employee, Marsh was soon appointed as a political attaché where she worked with the Senate, Congress, and State Department.

At the time of Marsh’s employment, The United States had been providing aid to El Salvador, which Marsh had been overseeing. The experience of supervising these international relations is one Marsh looks back on fondly.

“I dealt with different scopes of the Army, and with bilateral relations between El Salvador in the United States,” Marsh said. “When I became the political attaché, I was dealing with the Congress and State Department during a time where the United States was giving El Salvador a lot of aid. I needed to justify why we needed that type of aid and or where the aid was going. I got to meet wonderful people like Senator John McCain and President Bush, President Clinton, and First Lady Hillary Clinton as well. It was a wonderful opportunity for a young woman like me.”

Marsh worked in Washington D.C. for about eight years – she was one of the sole women in her field as well as one of the youngest. Despite her young age, Marsh felt included and valued among her peers. Even today, Marsh is incredibly proud of the fact that she was able to “rub shoulders” with five-star generals.

“[The generals] embraced me and made me a part of their group,” Marsh said. “I interacted with other military officers from all over the world. I formed this camaraderie, even as a rookie in the group, but they embraced me and guided me. They, in fact, told me that I was doing a great job representing my country.”

A DRIVING FORCE: Zeyda Marsh drives a tank at Fort Stuart in Washington State. Marsh is proud to have been such a strong force in her position in D.C.. A critical asset, Marsh worked in military, defense, and naval aspects as well as in the effort to aid her native country of El Salvador, which had been in the midst of a civil war. Marsh worked hard to get her position, working hard since she graduated from the Fu Hsing Kang Military Academy. After graduating, Marsh became an infantry officer. Marsh was unique as she was the first woman officer in the U.S! “No female infantry officers existed here in the US at this time. So every time I walked in the Pentagon, generals would stop me and say, Wait a minute, where did you get those rifles and I would tell them the story they were like, wow, we don’t have women like that here.” Marsh said. (Photo courtesy of Zeyda Marsh)

After her diplomatic post in Washington D.C., Marsh and her husband had two children. As a mother, Marsh felt giving her children a good education was of utmost importance. After witnessing her children’s education from the perspective of a parent, Marsh realized that she wanted to teach. She went back to college and earned her degree in Spanish Literature and Linguistics from California State University, Fullerton.

“When [my son] went to school, I joined the PTA (Parent-Teachers Association) like any parent,” Marsh said. “You [join] the PTA and you’re curious, and I saw what he was being taught and I thought I could do a little better than that.”

A few years after receiving her master’s degree, Marsh came to Mater Dei where she now teaches Mandarin and is the Department Chair of World Languages.

As a woman, Marsh experienced gender based challenges, especially while she was in the military. Marsh felt she had to change the mindset of a male-dominated field, as many of them were not used to female officers. When living in El Salvador, Marsh recalls being catcalled on base by her subordinates.

“[It was challenging] especially trying to change the mind of a manled organization or institution that wasn’t ready to see an infantry female officer,” Marsh said. “And so, at the beginning, when I graduated and went back to El Salvador, there were soldiers outside who would see me and they would catcall [me]. I stopped to introduce myself and told them to respect me as their officer. From that moment on, I gained their respect and admiration.”

Despite facing such challenges, Marsh is proud of all of her accomplishments and the opportunities she seized. Marsh believes it is critical for young women to lead by example, which is her own personal motto.

She advises the young women of Mater Dei to work hard and take their education seriously. Marsh believes that as a woman, one needs to be educated and be capable of seizing available opportunities.

“Continue studying and make someone out of yourself,” Marsh said. “Women need to be educated. Women need to know the opportunities out there and they’re all out there for us to grab. So go out there, continue studying, don’t complain, just do it, and you’ll achieve what you want.”

A WOMAN IN STEM: Alumna Madison Piechowski cites graduating from the University of Southern California at the top of her class while simultaneously working full time at the Aerospace Corporation as her proudest accomplishment. “[The thing I am most proud of] would have to be graduating from LMU on the honor roll in mechanical engineering, I think it was Magna Cum Laude, and then being able to get into USC right away and graduating top of my class as well while working full time,” Piechowski said. “The dedication to school plus work together, I’m pretty proud of.” (Photo courtesy of Madison Piechowski)

Madison Piechowski ’14, Alumna

Currently, Madison Piechowski, a member of the Class of 2014, works as a Spacecraft Propulsion Engineer at the Aerospace Corporation.

Piechowski was interested in pursuing a career in the engineering field throughout high school, since both her parents and grandmother worked in aerospace at one point in time, but she herself only became specifically focused on aerospace while attending college at Loyola Marymount University (LMU).

“I really liked space,” Piechowski said. “They call it ‘the final frontier.’ I always like to think it’s a lot more difficult in the sense that we’re still discovering these things. There’s not really answers to a lot of the common problems of space compared to civil and electrical [engineering.] I like the challenge of it.”

After realizing that aerospace was the field she wanted to pursue, Piechowski faced some difficulties breaking into the field.

“I didn’t know how to get into it actually to start because LMU doesn’t have an aerospace engineering degree, so I jumped around quite a bit,” Piechowski said.

The aspiring aerospace engineer had three different internships before joining the Material Science Society and meeting individuals who work at the Aerospace Corporation, where she is currently employed.

Piechowski started at the Aerospace Corporation in 3D printing and kept moving up the ladder. As she was working full time at the corporation, she also earned her masters degree from the University of Southern California (USC).

“I slowly started getting into a focus in combustion and engines over at USC and my work with some people at the company as I got my degree made me a great candidate for somebody who works in the spacecraft propulsion area,” Piechowski said.

Now in her role as a Spacecraft Propulsion Engineer at the Aerospace Corporation, Piechowski works closely with other companies and the government to ensure that their propulsion systems are without error so they can work safely.

“Basically, we’re mission assurance,” Piechowski said. “We take a look at a bunch of contractors and we take a look at their data and their components for their propulsion systems and we verify that everything is correct. We go through and make sure their testing requirements are up to date so that they are testing their components to the right thermal and vibration profiles. We make sure everything is going to run, that they understand their mission and what they’re trying to do. We make sure that they can achieve it so that it’s safe.”

As a woman working in a largely male-dominated industry, Piechowski has faced her share of obstacles entering the workforce and securing a position as an aerospace engineer.

“There are people out there, and especially getting into the job force, who are set in their old ways,” Piechowski said. “There are people out there who aren’t as keen on hiring women and making sure they’re fully integrated into the workforce and that there’s a diverse team.”

Piechowski does not let this deter her from continuing to work hard and excel in her role. She is a trailblazer for all women entering the aerospace industry and focuses on the good she is doing in her work rather than the sexism she faces as a woman in STEM.

“It just fuels you in a sense because you want to succeed more and more because you know that you aren’t taken seriously,” Piechowski said. “You have to focus on the good. You have to know that you are there for a reason. You’re good at what you do. You try to take those victories and put them up on a pedestal compared to those times that people try to push you down.”

For other young women looking to enter the aerospace industry or engineering in general, Piechowski advises joining societies and developing a network of personal relationships within the field.

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) for anyone who wants to be an engineer, no matter what their age, is an excellent resource,” Piechowski said. “They have job fairs and conferences where you can get hired on the spot and they even help high school students get internships. It’s not just for aerospace, it’s for all different types of fields for engineering, it’s pretty fantastic. I don’t think I would be where I am if I didn’t have SWE.”

HONING HER SKILL: Senior Lauren Biagiotti is an AP Art student at Mater Dei, currently completing her twelve-piece portfolio on a topic of her choosing. In deciding her theme, Biagiotti drew inspiration from the time she spent visiting her grandparents in South Dakota. “My grandparents live in South Dakota so throughout my life I’ve gone and visited them,” Biagiotti said. “I’m doing my portfolio on my trips there and just spending time with them throughout my whole life. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Biagiotti)

Lauren Biagiotti ‘22, Current Student

Senior Lauren Biagiotti is working to inspire the student body to embrace and explore their creativity through art.

Biagiotti has had a passion for art since a young age and has taken art classes all four years of high school. At the school, she has taken Art I, Art II, Honors Art III, and is currently taking AP Art.

“I have really loved all my art classes,” Biagiotti said. “I’ve also loved going into museums and looking at art there. And then there’s a ton of really cool public art in Orange County and Los Angeles. I think just seeing all of that and also taking classes has given me a strong foundation.”

Biagiotti is also the vice president of the art service club on campus, the National Art Honor Society (NAHS). Within the club, the members organize and run art outreach events and connect with other student artists in the community.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began during her sophomore year of high school, Biagiotti and her family began to spend a lot of time driving in Orange County and Los Angeles. Because of all the time she was suddenly spending in the car, Biagiotti began to notice public art and murals she had never seen before.

Inspired by these murals, Biagiotti began to write reflections on the public art she saw throughout the communities. As a junior in high school, Biagiotti collected these reflections, photographed the murals she wrote about, and self-published her first book, Larger Than Life: Reflections on Los Angeles and Orange County Public Art.

“I really hope that others will notice the public art in the book and take more time to look at murals in their community,” Biagiotti said. “There’s a lot of murals out there that you just don’t notice because maybe you’re just not looking out. There’s a ton of public art out there that’s inspiring and just really cool in general so hopefully people can check it out.”

After discovering her love for murals and publishing her book, Biagiotti wanted to share her passion for public art with the Mater Dei community in other ways.

PROJECT HOPE: After discovering her love for public art, Lauren Biagiotti wanted to combine her passion for art with her passion for service to make a greater impact in the community. Along with her Honors Art III Class, Biagiotti created works of art inspired by hope to display at a cancer treatment center called City of Hope. “Other people in my class made posters and then my teacher helped me collect them,” Biagiotti said. “Then we actually went to City of Hope and put them on these huge blue letters that spell out ‘hope’ to make a public art display.” (Photo courtesy of Lauren Biagiotti)

Biagiotti founded her own club, Monarch Murals, which connects art and advocacy through projects such as Project Hope. As president, Biagiotti led the event which involved creating posters for the cancer research center, City of Hope.

“After making my book and falling in love with murals and public art, I wanted to do more projects that revolved around murals,” Biagiotti said. “I come up with projects like Project Hope, and I post a lot of different art on my website, like murals in the community.”

Even after graduating this spring, Biagiotti plans to continue her work finding the connection between art and service.

“I hope to always continue art just as a hobby,” Biagiotti said. “Maybe even going to different museums across the world, or just looking at really cool murals across the world. Traveling and writing about it would be really cool.”


These three women span generations, fields, and even interests, but are connected by the shared struggle and triumph of working to reach success and create change as a woman in the 21st century. They are each trailblazers in their specific area of interest and inspire the next generation of women to come. The Mater Dei community supports and celebrates women such as Zeyda Marsh, Madison Piechowski, and Lauren Biagiotti, not just this month, but every month.