Women in science and engineering help boost women in STEM

Attendees of the WiSE Women of Color in STEM Social Hour: Peer Networking and Fun in October

Hundreds of people – students and teachers – in STEM fields have been mentored, energized and supported in their advancement through the work of Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) from Syracuse Universitysince its inception over 20 years ago.

Serving 19 STEM departments across the University, WiSE provides undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty with networking and learning opportunities that help improve the inclusion and success of STEM women.

“Over the past 22 years at SU, WiSE has created STEM mentorship relationships across all disciplines, levels and ranks,” says Shobha Bhatia, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the College of Engineering and of Computer Science, Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence and Co-Director of WiSE Faculty. “WiSE has enabled its participants to both climb the ladder and hold on to it – this is remarkable and worth celebrating.”

portrait of Shobha Bhatia

Shobha Bhatia

Although WISE’s mission is to empower women in STEM, its organized events and workshops are open to everyone, regardless of sex, gender, or gender identity. This includes an upcoming event celebrating the exciting history of WiSE.

This spring, WiSE will recognize the past, present, and future of its work at the “SU WiSE 22 Year Celebration,” from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 1.

The event will include:

  • presentations by wise faculty leadership;
  • roundtables on the perspective of graduates and undergraduates;
  • presentations by Virginia Valian, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Hunter College, and Cristina Marchetti, Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, former William R. Kenan, Jr. and Distinguished Professor of Physics at Syracuse University, Fellow of the American Physical Society and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences; and
  • the awarding of the Norma Slepecky Undergraduate Research Prize.

“WiSE has made a huge difference in the lives of women in STEM at every level of the pipeline for 22 years, helping them succeed and thrive,” says Katharine Lewis, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology, Co-Director of WiSE and Professor Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith for Excellence in Teaching. “On April 1, we will celebrate these achievements and look forward to what remains to be done to achieve gender equity in STEM.”

person talking in the room

Catherine Lewis

In 1996, the underrepresentation of female faculty in STEM was noted by women in the University Senate and a proposal was submitted for a WiSE program by Cathryn Newton, then President of Earth Sciences and currently professor of interdisciplinary sciences and emeritus dean of arts and sciences. and Diane Lyden Murphy (currently Dean of Falk College) and Priti Ramamurthy, then Directors of Feminist Studies.

The proposal was not funded, but a year later the Senate Committee on Women’s Concerns recognized the scarcity of female professors in science, math, and engineering disciplines. Newton and Bhatia were named co-facilitators of the first WiSE project.

Newton and Bhatia met with other faculty members, researched similar programs, and identified three goals: to increase representation and retention; highlighting women scholars through a series of lectures; and develop mentorship programs.

Since then, WiSE, which became part of the Provost’s Office in 2017, has developed programming and mentorship opportunities that have continued to deepen relationships among its members.

Among its many offerings, WiSE initiatives include the following:

  • the Norma Slepecky Prize (for undergraduate research) and conference;
  • WiSE Women of Color in STEM and Career Preparation Program, which promotes perseverance in STEM and also provides tools for women to succeed while challenging stigma;
  • scientific writing workshops;
  • Undergraduate Summer Research Program;
  • WiSE for Future Professionals Program (WiSE-FPP);
  • leadership development scholarships for faculty; and
  • various professional development opportunities for postdoctoral students and faculty members.

To visit WiSE online to find out more and how to participate.

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