Forty first-year female students in engineering, science and mathematics are enjoying a new option in housing this year with WiSE, a learning-living residential program designed to create a supportive community where like-minded young women can thrive both inside and outside the classroom.

“The Women in Science & Engineering (WiSE) program was designed to create a community as well as provide a support system for young women pursuing degrees in science and engineering at Clarkson,” says Kathryn Johnson, vice president for University Outreach and Student Affairs. “It is one of the themed housing options we offer students, which are popular and successful. In this case, interested incoming women can be housed with other students who share the same interests, goals and challenges. It is also a way to help smooth the transition
to university life for first-year students.”

WiSEThe program was offered for the first time this academic year during the first-year housing process. The Residential
Life staff anticipated that WiSE would house about 20 females. Instead, it was deluged with requests and ended up with 40 participants. For Johnson and her staff, that’s proof that WiSE is meeting an important need.

One of the benefits of WiSE is that it offers a strong system of support that includes three upper-class women serving as mentors of the program, as well as several staff members from across the University.

Francesca Merchant ’09, a senior biology major and WiSE mentor, says, “WiSE serves to remind these women that they belong here too. It can be challenging to sit in an aeronautical engineering class and be in the minority. In WiSE, the girls can come back to their mentor, who remembers that same challenge, or to her peers who are experiencing the same issues.”

WiSE also offers its members extraordinary opportunities to network with successful alumnae. The women participate in social functions; attend events, workshops and study sessions; and meet with helpful offices such as the Career Center.

“We’re able to create tighter bonds because we have all these things in common,” says  first-year biomolecular science major Suzanne Smith ’12, a WiSE member. “On top of that we are involved in WiSE-sponsored activities that help us gain skills and confidence for the future.”

“These young women aren’t any different than any other females on our campus, or on any campus. They’ve just been empowered,” explains Merchant.