Cinda-Sue Davis, the director of the University”s Women in Science and Engineering Program, will be given the chance to expand her sphere of influence in helping women in the fields of science and high technology as a recently named representative to the Blue Ribbon Committee in San Diego, Calif.
Since attending the committee”s first panel, titled “Best Practices in Higher Education: Increasing the Participation of Under-Represented Groups in Science, Engineering, and Technology,” in early November, Davis said she hopes “there will be some policies coming from Washington, D.C., to address the education of under represented groups in science and technology.”
“There is a concern nationally because more women and minorities will soon make up the majority of workforces which traditionally have not been filled with them,” Davis said. In fields such as information technology, the number of women has dropped significantly within the last 10 years, she added.
In the past, Davis said such panels have been a great opportunity for the University to hear directly from the nation”s leading corporations about what they would like to see more from in University graduates who are entering their fields.
“There is always an advantage to working with the corporate world and it”s always easier to approach these issues in a collaborative manner,” Davis said.
“It”s exciting to be able to share some of the best practices, models and researches (of the University) with others likewise to learn what others are doing,” Davis said.
One of the strategies discussed at the panel to increase the number of women in science and engineering was living-learning programs such as the WISE Residence Program, which offers first and second-year female students majoring in science and engineering to live in Mosher-Jordan Residence Hall, where they receive both academic and social support.
Davis said that programs such as WISE Residence Program have helped the University to have one of the highest percentage of female engineering students in the nation. In 1999-2000, 27 percent of engineering students at the University were female, much higher than the national average of 19 percent.
Julie Ricks, an Engineering senior and member of the WISE Residence Program, said the program “helps to maintain the high retention rate in keeping women in science and engineering majors.”
Ricks joined the program because she was “pretty intimidated by the 36,000 student population and wanted to be in a smaller community with students with similar academic interests.”
Other successful practices of the University in keeping a high number of women students in science and engineering are the Marian Sarah Parker Scholars Program, which offers a series of workshops about graduate schools, and the Future Science: Future Engineering program, which allows female middle-school students to come to the University for a week to engage in projects involving engineering, physics, chemistry or the human genome.
By sharing the University”s successes with other members of the Blue Ribbon Committee, Davis said she is “hopeful that we will be able to make real progress and gain a national initiative.”