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WISE program gets D.C. focus

The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program got national attention at a special hearing on Capitol Hill last week.

Cinda-Sue Davis, the program’s director, spoke at a hearing sponsored by the organization Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST). BEST works to focus attention on the need for more under-represented minorities and women in science and engineering careers.

Cinda-Sue Davis (right), director of the WISE-Residential Program, speaks at a Congressional hearing. (Photo by Mike Waring, U-M Washington, D.C., Office)

In a recent report entitled "The Quiet Crisis,” BEST pointed out the growing need for scientists and other technical people and the large gap that exists in filling that need. By encouraging more under-represented groups to enter these fields, it is hoped that part of that gap can be filled.

The hearing was chaired by Reps. Constance Morella (R-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), both of whom sit on the House Science Committee. In her remarks, Davis talked about the WISE Residential Program (WISE-RP), where female students live and study together, providing a support mechanism for them.

"We have some very recent data suggesting that the strong academic environment provided by the WISE-RP program staff is a significant positive predictor of women’s academic confidence,” said Davis. "This is very important, since national research shows that lack of confidence is a major contributor for women leaving science or engineering.”

WISE-RP was lauded by Rep. Morella as a model program for encouraging young women to enter science and engineering fields nationally.

The program began at U-M in 1993 in an effort to bring women with similar career goals and academic interests under the same roof. Female students from LS&A, the College of Engineering, the School of Nursing, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Division of Kinesiology are encouraged to enroll in WISE-RP, which fosters an academically, as well as socially, supportive environment.

WISE-RP houses freshman and upper-classwomen, with the older students serving as Big Sisters. Three resident advisors also direct the program’s activities, such as social functions and study groups.

WISE-RP is designed to create a "home within a home” environment for its students. The close-knit community is maintained by weekly WISE events, as well as numerous committees that break the group down even further.


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