Breaking ground and glass ceilings
In our family of alumni, countless women have broken ground in male-dominated fields. In politics, Kristina Keneally ’91 became the first female premier in Australia’s New South Wales. In athletic officiating, Marcy Weston ’66 became the first woman to receive the Gold Whistle Award, college officiating’s highest honor. And in journalism, Erma Bombeck ’49 took household humor to another level with her newspaper column, reaching an audience of 30 million people.
Current female students can aspire to be in the same ranks as these extraordinary women, thanks to targeted programming and backing from alumni and friends. In particular, women majoring in science, technology, engineering or math have seen a swelling of support to help them excel in these ever-growing fields, in which they are underrepresented.
One long-standing University partner in such endeavors is the Henry Luce Foundation, which administers the Clare Boothe Luce Program — one of the largest national private supporters of women in the STEM fields. Since 1990, the program has provided scholarship and fellowship assistance to numerous female Flyers majoring in STEM programs. This year, the foundation continued their dedication through its competitive grant program, providing $201,600 to fund the work of eight female undergraduate research scholars.
The grant clears a pathway to careers in research and academia for students like Maggie Jewett ’20, a chemical engineering major whose passion for research was sparked in high school. “My AP biology teacher took my class to a lecture by an Indiana University professor about his research in biomedical engineering. During his lecture, he shared the current studies and advancements in lab-grown organs. The possibility to provide organs to individuals who need transplants made from their own cells presents so much potential in the health field. I want to be a part of this advancement.”
Jewett began her work toward her goal this year, along with three other sophomores in the first cohort. Over the course of two years, they will each receive $25,000 for research costs and stipends, travel to academic conferences and professional development. Each student will work with a faculty mentor to fine-tune their work. During both academic years, they will conduct research for at least 10 hours a week. They will be in the lab 20 hours a week during the summer between their sophomore and junior years. A final cohort of four scholars will embark on the same path in fall 2018.
Nancy Miller, research scholars program manager and associate director of the honors program, explained how the work aids Jewett and other recipients when applying to grad school, getting them one step closer to coveted careers in research or academia. “Having it on their résumé makes them more competitive at top graduate schools because Clare Boothe Luce is a very prestigious program. It also implies that students have significant lab experience, which is enticing for faculty who are teaching in graduate programs. Part of the way grad students earn their keep is through research assistance and everyone would prefer to have somebody with a great deal of lab experience.”
Award recipient and biochemistry major Emily Jones ’20, who is working on combating antibiotic resistance in bacterial cells, sums up what it means to be a woman in this day and age conducting research in a STEM field: “At the end of the day, the science will speak for itself, but being in a position to provide that evidence is an opportunity that women have not had in the past and still struggle to maintain today. The tide is definitely changing to allow a more diverse field of representation in STEM research, but there is still a very long way to go!”
She’s right — there is a long way to go. Thanks to the commitment of our friends at the Henry Luce Foundation, and so many others in our Flyer family, the University of Dayton is proud to assist our students as they move forward on that road.