Women in Science strengthen support efforts

Three years ago, the Women in Science Student Support Group was founded at Allegheny by student Brittany Rauzan,’13 in order to address the disproportionate gender gap between male and female students interested in STEM fields. Since Rauzan graduated, Erika Pack, ’16, has taken over as the student coordinator.

“My goal for the group is to strengthen the bond between female students in the STEM field at Allegheny,” Pack said. “There is always something to learn from your peers and I think that creating a tight bond will allow for a strong support network for students to rely on.”

When it first began, Ivelitza Garcia, assistant professor of chemistry at Allegheny and the Women in Science adviser, had some doubts about forming the WiS group.

“I wasn’t really sure what the interest for such a group would be,” Garcia explained.

However, there was a fair turnout at their first meeting. Originally, the club held one meeting per semester, and worked to bring speakers and find conferences for the students.

Since its beginning, the group has dwindled down, but there is still at least one female faculty member per department involved.

The departments involved range from computer science to global health studies, and each faculty member works to mentor the students in their field. As well, WiS has begun working to organize the juniors and seniors to become mentors for the first-years and sophomores.

“I wish that as a freshman or sophomore I could’ve had an upperclassman to guide me through and give me their perspective on scheduling and courses, and research opportunities,” Pack explained. “Now I have the opportunity to give others the advice that I wish I had received.”

Adele Poynor, assistant professor of physics at Allegheny and physics mentor for WiS, agrees that she wishes to provide the support for others that she wishes she had had for herself.

“I thought it was a good idea because women are still underrepresented,” Poynor added.

As one of the faculty mentors, Poynor periodically shares articles with her students in her field of study, or she shares them with Garcia to send to the whole group. She also provides advice for students on graduate school and shares scholarship information.

Though they may be underrepresented in the workforce, women are not lacking in numbers in many of the science department participating in the WiS.

By the end of January, the WiS members hope to begin having more frequent and regular meetings to better support the women on campus with connections and advice.