Stony Brook University was featured in the fifth annual impact report released by the United Nations (UN) Women’s HeForShe campaign this past September.
HeForShe urges individuals and organizations around the world to take a stand in forming a vision of a gender-equal world by creating solutions and implementing innovative programs.
Stony Brook narrowed the gap between men and women in its 2018 statistics, increasing female undergraduate enrollment from 46.2% in 2013 to 48.4% in 2018. The graduation rate gap of men to women also decreased, dropping from 17 to 3 percentage points. The university credits these improvements to programs such as its Women in Science and Engineering Honors Program (WISE), which provides opportunities for STEM female students.
“We have undertaken a multifaceted effort to increase the success of male students while expanding our Women in Science and Engineering program; adding graduate mentors and programming and developing a first in the national integration of gender concepts into the engineering curriculum,” the university wrote in the report.
Stony Brook is one of 10 universities, and one of two in the United States, involved in the HeForShe campaign. The impact report featured statistics on the university’s gender gaps and programs that aim to close them, such as Stony Brook’s WISE program.
The WISE Program, which was created in 1993, offers STEM opportunities for female undergraduate students at Stony Brook through conferences, scholarships, and mentorship programs. WISE aims to provide academic excellence, promote professional development, provide research opportunities, establish community outreach and encourage global collaborations by offering events like Admitted Student Day, where students can serve as ambassadors to freshmen.
“It provides rigorous preparation for young women to succeed in STEM careers, and it is the first of its kind in a research university in the U.S.,” Monica Bugallo, WISE Faculty Director, said.
Stony Brook’s WISE Program builds a supportive background for women in STEM starting in middle school and continuing through college. They hold conferences for over 100 middle school and high school girls to introduce them to STEM programs at Stony Brook University. Women accepted into the WISE program receive a merit-based scholarship, in addition to mentorship and research opportunities.
The report featured Kerris Moore, class of 2019 graduate and former member of the WISE Honors Program, in one of its “impact” stories. Moore described the effects of WISE in her life, touching upon the opportunities that it has provided for her in the STEM field.
“For me, being in WISE automatically let professors know that I was a serious, hard-working student capable of academic success, thereby opening the door for on-campus research opportunities,” Moore said in the report.
Moore was introduced to the WISE mentoring program in her freshman year, which became a key driver for her success. She later became a mentor herself and used her own experiences in the program to help new members.
“The WISE community has helped me to create crucial bonds between students and faculty and those bonds created over the course of the academic year are long-lasting,” Moore said in the report.
The WISE curriculum — the first of its kind in the country — has a focus on academics, research, service-learning and leadership coupled with key soft skills.
The WISE curriculum also offers an experiential learning experience. “The WISE Honors Program has been tremendously successful, particularly because of its rigorous curriculum and mentoring initiative,” Angela Kelly, an associate professor of the Department of Physics & Astronomy and affiliated member of WISE, said.
Kelly explained that first-year WISE students are mentored by juniors and seniors, typically in the same major. “This helps new students to become acclimated to their majors and learn about internships and networking opportunities,” she said.
“We educate our students to become culturally competent global citizens and leaders,” the university wrote in the report. “Our work in attracting, retaining, and supporting women in STEM fields is scalable, and is significant for the advancement of scientific research, the development of solutions to pressing social problems, and for our students themselves.”