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Women in Science Proposal Receives Nearly $200,000 in NSF Funding

RELEASED: Oct. 18, 2005

UW-Eau Claire student Lori ScardinoEAU CLAIRE — A proposal to increase the participation of women in science from investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

Marc Goulet, associate professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, along with Susie Sandrin, director of the UW System Women and Science Program, and Heidi Fencl, associate professor of physics at UW-Green Bay, have received a $199,891 NSF grant for "Wisconsin Women in Science, Technology and Engineering." The grant will run from January 2006 through December 2007.

Goulet, Sandrin and Fencl comprise the planning team to create a training program for secondary teachers and counselors to increase awareness of gender bias in science and technology education. It will also introduce Wisconsin educators to regional and national programs for promising female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also called STEM fields.

They will work together to plan the teacher workshop component of the project as well as identify people to interview for a women and science video, which will be used as an inspirational tool to highlight the successes of women in science, technology and mathematics, Goulet said.

"Also it will highlight programs available for girls and young women in science to increase awareness of these programs across the state, present recent findings on the status of women in these fields and identify the challenges that remain for achieving equality of opportunities for women in these fields," he added.

The teacher training sessions will take place at a three-day conference at UW-Oshkosh during the summer of 2007. Goulet said teachers will work in small groups to identify action plans for their schools and/or districts in working to bring more opportunities for girls in STEM fields. They will work with mentors from across the state and hear from speakers who are experts in the fields of gender and science.

Goulet said Wisconsin has a need for a program of this type because many populations in the state have very limited access to women mentors in the STEM fields. " Wisconsin is working very hard on women's issues right now, thanks to many dynamic groups across the state. These include Wisconsin Women Equal Prosperity, led by Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton; American Association of University Women; Department of Public Instruction; Wisconsin Technology College System; Girl Scouts and others."

Some academic areas, such as biology and mathematics, have success in attracting women to the field, while other areas have had less success, Goulet said.

"I believe the work of science and technology is significantly enhanced by increasing the diversity of participants," he said. "Addressing the societal need for a well-trained mathematical and scientific work force by working in the schools to keep women in the educational pipeline is extremely important."

The United States is currently facing an increased need for STEM professionals, and this is causing increased reliance on foreign expertise in these areas, Goulet said. "It only makes sense to tap our own talented population and encourage currently underrepresented populations to consider careers in STEM professions."

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JW

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