Women in Science and Engineering Program (University of Michigan) Records

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Women in Science and Engineering Program (University of Michigan) Records

This Deep Blue collection forms part of a larger Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program record group held at the Bentley Historical Library. For additional archival material related to WISE see:

Other materials related to this record group include:

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) at the University of Michigan was established in 1980 to increase the number of women students who major in and seek advanced degrees in mathematics, science and technical fields. The materials in Deep Blue include a audio recordings and transcripts from the Women's History in Michigan Science and Engineering Oral History Project.

In 1980, the University of Michigan established the Women in Science Program as part of the Center for Continuing Education of Women (CEW). The program has sought over the years to increase the number of women students who major in and seek advanced degrees in mathematics, science and technical fields. In 1994, the program changed its name to Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) to reflect support for both women in science, as well as women in engineering. While WISE had always supported women in engineering (made apparent by many early programming endeavors), the common interpretation of "science" at the time excluded engineering. The name change was designed to bridge the gap in terminology.

In its initial years, the program was funded by joint contributions from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, the College of Engineering, the Medical School, the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. In the two decades since its inception, WISE has applied for and received considerable funds from outside sources while continuing under the auspices of the Center for the Education of Women (CEW). In recent years, WISE has operated as an independent program.

WISE has supported undergraduate and graduate women through a variety of programs, including workshops, roundtable discussions, "tray lunches," and conferences. Prominent in the early years was the Women in Science Workshop, offered each fall for incoming women in the Literature, Science and the Arts and the Engineering colleges who were interested in science and mathematics-related majors and careers. The workshop afforded students the opportunity to meet women scientists and obtain information about science and engineering programs at the university.

Of particular significance is the Warner-Lambert Lecture Series, begun in 1981 with a gift of $15,000. This gift from the Warner-Lambert Foundation allowed WISE to co-sponsor with departments across campus lectures by visiting women scientists and to sponsor university-wide lectures by outstanding women scientists. Faculty members across campus were invited to submit nominations for speakers, and a faculty advisory committee reviewed applications and selected speakers. Well over 100 women scientists were brought to campus as a direct result of this program.

In 1990, WISE began supporting internships in the sciences for undergraduate women in cooperation with the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. In addition to counseling and advising individual students, WISE produces and makes available resource guides for students.

WISE, however, did not limit its focus to supporting women at the university-level, but also sought from early on to encourage girls and minorities in elementary and high school to take an interest in science. In 1988, with the support of a Sigma Xi pre-college education grant, WISE sponsored two "Science Day on Campus" events, bringing local high school girls to campus to get career information and tours of the laboratories of women scientists. Among the other pre-college programs supported by WISE were Summerscience for Girls and high school internships. Summerscience was first held in 1989, with funding from the Young Scholars program of the National Science Foundation, and brought nearly 50 girls to campus to do hands-on projects in the sciences. Additional NASA funding in the second year allowed the program to expand to 75 students. In 1992, a joint project by Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis and the Women in Science Program received federal funding from the National Institute of Health Science Education Award Program. The joint project -- "Science for Life: A summer Program for High School Women" -- placed twenty high school women between their junior and senior years in research laboratories for a six-week period.

WISE staff have also conducted a number of scientific research projects on campus and made themselves available to give papers and talks at local, state, and national events and conferences. The program has also been involved in international efforts encouraging girls in scientific fields, and in 1987 the WISE staff members hosted the Girls and Science and Technology (GASAT) IV conference in Ann Arbor. GASAT, founded in 1979 by researchers in Northern Europe who were concerned with the participation of girls and women in scientific fields, held international conferences bringing individuals around the world together to discuss their work on issues relating to girls and science.

After receiving a grant from the Alumnae Council Birthday Greeting Committee in 2004 the Women in Science and Engineering Program, under the direction of Dr. Cinda-Sue Davis, initiated an oral history project to collect and preserve the oral histories of University of Michigan alumnae in the sciences and engineering. Interview subjects were selected based on their integrity, social consciousness, and citizenship, and not simply on their technical ability or accomplishments. Furthermore, the oral histories focus on the whole interview subject, not simply her experience in a technological field. Interview subjects spoke candidly about their hopes, fears, regrets, and triumphs in all aspects of their lives: education, career, marriage, family and retirement. They have discussed at length how their treatment and experiences led to, sidetracked, or thwarted their attempts as scientists, engineers, or technicians. The Women’s History in Michigan Science and Engineering Oral History Project completed its interviews in 2007. The project resulted in a website (which provided this description) as well as audio recordings and transcripts.

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Copyright held by the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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