CONTACT: GARY GALLUZZO
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0009; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: June 27, 2000
UI WISE program reports high retention rate for Class of 2000 women
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Women in Science and Engineering
(WISE) program recently announced that of the 62 first-year students in its
1996 inaugural mentoring class, 81 percent completed their May 2000 degrees
with science or engineering majors.
Betsy Riesz, coordinator of the WISE Student to Student Support in Science
(SSSS) mentoring program, said that the results exceed national trends, in
which the retention of women undergraduates in science and engineering varies
from 30-46 percent, depending on size and whether the institution is public
or private. She added that for men, the retention rates within science and
engineering range from 39 to 61 percent.
Among students who began their UI academic careers by majoring in science,
76 percent remained in science. In the case of engineering students, 76 percent
remained in engineering, and 14 percent selected a science major. Additionally,
of the 62 freshmen, 13 later served the SSSS program for two years as mentors.
Riesz noted that the final evaluation forms completed by students often reflect
the feelings expressed by one mentor: "The best thing about SSSS was
getting a chance to interact with other enthusiastic girls I wouldn't have
otherwise met." During the 1999-2000 academic year, 76 students and 76
Riesz said that the WISE Program cannot take full credit for the high retention
rate, since the fact that the students applied to be part of the mentoring
program indicated that in 1996 they were already motivated to maximize their
opportunities at the university. However, she added that even talented and
motivated students can become discouraged by the challenges they face in a
large university and in rigorous science and engineering majors.
The SSSS program assists first-year students in accessing information about
classes, study strategies, campus support services, organizations and events
and provides informal networking. Currently the program is funded by Alcoa
Inc., Andersen Consulting, The Caterpillar Foundation, The John Deere Foundation,
Fisher Controls International, Inc., 3M, The Maytag Corporation, Pioneer Hi-Bred
International, and Rockwell.
WISE provides additional opportunities to assist undergraduates, including
a WISE learning community, an entire floor of Daum Residence Hall open to
first-year women with science and engineering majors. Other opportunities
include a spring student leadership conference and the WISE Ambassadors, a
recognized student organization offering a variety of leadership activities,
including planning a Girl Scout Engineering Badge Day for about 150 scouts.
Chris Brus, director of WISE, said, "It is well documented that one
of the most important supports for young women entering fields of study where
women have been traditionally under-represented, is community. Women place
a high value on being connected to others and much of what WISE does, both
in academic and social programming, is provide a framework where young women
can find each other. It is also documented that young women who remain isolated
often feel they have no voice in an institutional setting. This perception
may cause otherwise competent and capable young women to be much less assertive
than their male counterparts in seeking and establishing healthy professional
networks. Programs like WISE provide the small nudge of opportunity that helps
young women become active, equal participants in the greater university community."
The WISE program exists to enhance opportunities for women students, staff
and faculty to advance in their science, math, engineering, and technical
fields. For further information, contact Chris Brus, director, at firstname.lastname@example.org