WiSE hosts “Navigating the Future” symposium

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WiSE hosts “Navigating the Future” symposium

Women in STEM Experience will offer a free symposium event, entitled "Navigating the Future," this Saturday to broaden support for women in STEM fields. Wikimedia Commons

Ellen Johnson

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WiSE seeks to broaden support for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields with a free symposium event, entitled “Navigating the Future,” this Saturday. WiSE, which stands for Women in STEM Experience, invites all students, faculty and staff to attend the symposium, which will offer students the chance to network with faculty and fellow students, participate in work sessions and hear guest speakers.

“[WiSE has] a total of 277 people pre-registered to attend, 48 poster presenters, as well as 15 speakers lined up for the day,” said Cori Perdue, director of Graduate School Programs. “Students can gain from this experience if they plan on going to graduate school, or if they plan on becoming a professional in this field.”

The WiSE board, an affiliate of the University of Alabama Graduate School Programs and the Tide Together mentoring program, hopes to celebrate women in STEM departments and give them opportunities to grow in their academic and professional careers. 

“Navigating the Future” will feature keynote speaker Jenna Carpenter of Louisiana Tech University, president of Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network

“Women in STEM fields are under-represented, so we aim to champion them and encourage them to continue being leaders.” Perdue said. “I’m hoping [this event] is going to energize students moving forward.”

One of these students is Teddi Brown, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering. The symposium event should be helpful to women in STEM, who often face adversity, Brown said.

“This event is a good networking opportunity because there are not a lot of [women] in STEM fields,” Brown said. “There are around 60 to 70 people in most of my classes, but usually only like 5 or 6 are girls.”

While the disproportionate number of female students may seem negative, the small numbers might boast some advantages of being a female STEM student, Brown said

“Although I have experienced some people who think you’re not as smart if you’re a girl, I do think that it puts you at an advantage because [women] are the minority in this field,” Brown said. “So it makes us more unique to employers because they’re not seeing as many girls.”

Hillary Sletten, a doctoral candidate in the department of geological sciences, said she recognized this reality, and helped establish the WiSE board two years ago

“Before WiSE, there weren’t any special programs to help women in STEM, so there was a need for this.” Sletten said. “We are trying to create something to give women the skills they need to go further up in the academic food chain and in the industry.”

Activities for “Navigating the Future” begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31, in Shelby Hall. Students can register onsite between 8 and 9 a.m. before the day’s sessions begin.