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The University Magazine

Pulling for women

University Magazine - Winter 2009 Image

RIT’s Women in Engineering hosted a summer camp for middle school girls in July. Here, girls test the bowling game they created from recycled materials.

Reaching out to future engineers

RIT is striving to encourage the movement of women into science and engineering while also creating a stronger environment for women engineers at RIT.

The effort has included initiatives such as the creation of a student section of the Society of Women Engineers, which now has more than 40 members from the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, the College of Applied Science and Technology and the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.

In addition, the Kate Gleason College of Engineering has taken the lead in development of the Women in Engineering program, or WE@RIT, which includes an outreach effort seeking to promote enthusiasm and understanding of engineering concepts among elementary and secondary students and teachers.

“The college made the decision in the late 1990s that we wanted to improve our own ability to recruit and retain high quality women engineers while also serving as a model for additional colleges and universities,” says Margaret Anderson, assistant dean for student services in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering and adviser to the Society of Women Engineers student section.

With financial support from the Gleason Foundation, the college created the Kate Gleason Endowed Chair. “In recruiting a person to fill the position, we made the decision to seek out a person with a strong interest in gender equity in engineering as a means of taking our efforts in the area to the next level,” says Harvey Palmer, dean of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering.

Margaret Bailey, an associate professor at the United States Military Academy who had been highly involved in enhancing the climate for female cadets, was selected to serve as the first Kate Gleason Endowed Chair and worked to launch WE@RIT in 2003.

“WE@RIT is a two-pronged eff ort that seeks to both enhance understanding of engineering concepts among elementary and high school girls while also improving the social and educational environment for women engineering students currently enrolled in the college,” says Bailey, who also serves as an associate professor of mechanical engineering and the executive director of WE@RIT.

University Magazine - Winter 2009 Image

Margaret Bailey

The program off ers educational and social activities, volunteer and co-op opportunities for RIT students, plus numerous on and off campus events and camps throughout the year for girls in grades K through 12. In addition, it works to assist elementary and high school teachers in enhancing engineering and science education. It also enlists RIT engineering students to assist in classroom activities and serve as mentors through the Traveling Engineering Activity Kit program.

Presently, WE@RIT reaches more than 2,300 students and educators annually and has received national recognition, winning the 2008 Women in Engineering Program Award from the Women in Engineering Proactive Network (WEPAN). In addition, Bailey received the 2008 Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award for her work in creating the program.

“It is our hope that the continued eff orts of WE@RIT and the Kate Gleason College of Engineering as a whole will ultimately enhance the overall number of women and minorities going into science and engineering fields and allow these disciplines to more directly mirror the national population as a whole,” says Bailey.

Will Dube