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In only its third year, WiSci is making an impression at UGA

Sep. 29, 2016

Writer: Beth Gavrilles, bethgav@uga.edu

Contact: Cecilia Sánchez, cecilia.sanchez@uga.edu

Women in Science, also known as WiSci, is a University of Georgia student organization that promotes equality in the sciences. Now starting its third year, it is already having an outsized impact through its thriving mentoring network, career development workshops and monthly discussion groups.

WiSci’s next event is a workshop on sexual harassment in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Held in collaboration with the UGA Equal Opportunities Office, UGA Counseling and Psychiatric Services, and UGA Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention, the workshop takes place on Sept. 30 from 3:00-5:00 p.m. in the Odum School of Ecology auditorium; for more information and to reserve a place, see http://wisciuga.weebly.com/sponsored.html.

Formed in 2014 by ecology students concerned about retaining and advancing women in science and technology careers, WiSci has grown from a core group of officers to an organization with more than 300 members, including students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral associates from units across campus.

The UGA Center for Student Organizations honored WiSci with the Outstanding New Organization award in 2015 and the Outstanding Small Campus Event award in 2016 for “Mapping your path in science,” a two-day career development symposium. Held last fall, the symposium featured speakers from a variety of STEM professions covering topics such as job interview skills, work-life balance and using social media for career promotion.

In April, WiSci founder Cecilia Sánchez received the 2016 Graduate Student Diversity Engagement Award for her work with WiSci to achieve and maintain diversity on campus and within the larger community.

“I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made,” said Sánchez, a doctoral student in the Odum School of Ecology who served as WiSci’s first president. “When we started, I thought there would be some interest but I didn’t anticipate how much momentum there would be.  We’ve grown way beyond our original expectations.”

Sánchez credits WiSci’s success in part to motivated leadership and support from UGA; the offices of the President and Provost, as well as the Graduate School, the department of microbiology, the Odum School of Ecology, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the UGA Parents and Families Association have all provided funding for WiSci’s programs.

The growth in membership, however, also reflects widespread concern about the lack of representation of women in STEM fields, especially in higher level positions.

“A lot of  institutions still see this disparity, with strong female representation in the sciences starting at the undergraduate level, but as you move up to the level of full professor, you have women choosing not to continue, for reasons that are varied and complex,” said Sánchez. “We’re hoping both to raise awareness and to provide support for female scientists to change that.”

WiSci is open to all UGA undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral associates, faculty and staff, regardless of gender. To learn more, visit http://wisciuga.weebly.com/.

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