UC Merced's Women in Science and Engineering group started with a simple goal: to create a place where students feel comfortable to talk about anything and be supported by fellow students.
"It's nice to have that reinforcement - that you'll struggle (in some classes) - but that you'll make it through," said undergraduate management major and group founder Patricia Dugan.
"That's a message everyone wants to hear."
Although its name may suggest otherwise, the group is open to men and women and students of all disciplines. Its mission is to "generate and promote equal opportunities for women in diverse science and engineering disciplines."
Dugan was talking last semester about forming some sort of group with Professor Sayantani Ghosh , who suggested they consider starting a Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) group on campus. During the summer, Dugan identified the mission of the group and gained guidance and final approval from Ghosh and School of Natural Sciences Dean Maria Pallavicini, who acts as founding faculty mentor.
Once the vision was in place, they invited members of UC Santa Barbara's WiSE group to campus to learn more about what tools UCSB's WiSE has found to be most beneficial to students. The meeting created a supportive and collaborative relationship between the two campus WiSE organizations, which is still evolving.
"WiSE should be considered a source of information for incoming students, a platform for forming friendships and social ties with peers for current students and a stepping stone for information on future career development for ones about to graduate," Dugan said.
UC Merced WiSE has 10 officers from across UC Merced's three schools and 20 members. It has been holding weekly tea-time conversations as well as monthly meetings that feature faculty speakers.
Recently, Professor Mayya Tokman was the featured speaker. She discussed her journey and gave the audience inspirational advice through her own successes. Soil biogeochemistry Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe will speak in December.
The group provides students with networking opportunities - group President Shelley Rohde, an Applied Math graduate student, and Dugan say they would never have met without WiSE - and a place for students to talk honestly about their challenges.
In the coming months, the group is looking to collaborate with other campus groups and intends ultimately to reach out to local schools, promoting science and engineering.
"We want to give back to the university and to the community," Rohde said.
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