Friday, November 14, 2008

CU-WISE in CarletonNOW

The November 2008 issue of CarletonNOW includes an article about Carleton's Women in Science and Engineering! I've copied it below for your convenience, but the original is also available online.

Teaching > Carleton students CU-WISE
Posted Nov. 10/08
By Heather Montgomery

At the beginning of her graduate studies in 2007, Barbora Dej was looking for a way to connect to other women at Carleton who shared her interests. As a woman, Dej is a minority in her chosen field of engineering.

"I wanted to know, is there something at Carleton that supports women in engineering," says Dej. She scoured the Internet and eventually found the Carleton University branch of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).

Last year CU-WISE, a student branch of the Ottawa WISE chapter, was revived by a dedicated team of women. The group brings together women from across all disciplines of science and engineering, for networking, discussions and social change.

Left to right: Barbora Dej, Natalia Villanueva-Rosales, Serena Ngai and Gail Carmichael
participate in Carleton’s branch of Women in Science and Engineering known as CU-WISE.

"We’re not necessarily trying to increase the numbers," explains Gail Carmichael, a master’s student in computer science who is also on the CU-WISE executive for internal affairs.

"We’re trying to make sure that people who would be interested originally wouldn’t see those barriers and would try it out and not be afraid to do so."

The executive of CU-WISE focuses on staying organized. They exchange anywhere from 20 to 100 e-mails a week. They maintain their website and blog meticulously. For them, being able to have that virtual connection with potential members and interested people is a priority.

"Everything’s on the website," says Natalia Villanueva-Rosales, a PhD candidate in computer science who’s on the executive of the CU-WISE virtual communications committee.

"Every single detail, we take care of it."

Before its revival last year, CU-WISE was a struggling club at Carleton. Now, the group has over 100 members and is involved in hosting and participating in various events throughout the year. For a lot of the members, just knowing that there were many women like them out there was reassuring.

In September, CU-WISE hosted an event for first-year women that provided them with tips about how to survive their undergraduate degrees, and what to expect as a woman in science or engineering.

"Seeing all these first-years is sort of like seeing yourself," says Carmichael. "We all wish we’d had CU-WISE."

The women of CU-WISE also believe in social connection. They recently travelled to the Grace Hopper conference in Colorado to meet with women from all over the world.

"That’s one big reason women don’t get into computer science and engineering," says Carmichael. "They don’t understand that there is that social impact you can have as well. They imagine being in a cubicle all day coding. But there’s so much you can do."

Whether it’s one girl or 100, the women of CU-WISE want to let all women at Carleton know they’re not alone. That’s what drives them every day.

"If you make the difference in the life of a girl who doubted whether she’d come into something like computer science or engineering or if she was thinking of leaving the school and she stayed, that’s worth it," says Villanueva-Rosales.

On Nov. 26, CU-WISE is hosting a lecture by Carleton president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte.


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