An Outreach Program With Impact
The impact of the Women In Math and Science program is seen on the faces of the young women during their activities, in their comments to mentors and teachers, and in their comments on the program evaluation forms. As one of them succinctly put it, “Science Rocks!”
The Women in Math and Science (WIMS) Program began in 2006 with a simple idea: get young women in Idaho schools to think about careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields by letting them actually do some exciting science. “Although women enter careers in the life and social sciences in roughly equal numbers to men, not as many women enter careers in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering” said Dr. Scott Wood, who helped pioneer the program at the University of Idaho. “The WIMS program was designed to help change these statistics by showing young women that careers in STEM fields are not only possible for women, but fulfilling and important for society.”
The College of Science has had several partners in offering the Women in Math and Science programs, including the College of Education, the University’s centers in Boise and Coeur d’Alene, as well as North Idaho College and several local school districts. Financial support for the program has been provided by the IDEA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and private donations. Each school year, approximately 350 young women from northern Idaho and the Boise area participated in the program. Young women taking part in the events hear from female role models who have had successful careers in STEM fields and engage in activities that show the excitement of doing science. Recent activities have focused on water quality monitoring tests, to demonstrate that science is important and relevant to everyday life.
U-Idaho Statistics professor Michelle Wiest served as a mentor for the Women in Math and Science program in recent years. For her, the most rewarding part of participating is getting young women interested in an area that needs them. “I love getting the young ladies excited about a field they have most likely never considered as a career. There is tremendous room for them to innovate in statistics and mathematical modeling, particularly dealing with how to turn all of the data being collected and stored across industries into knowledge.”