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New Residential Community Supports Women in STEM

June 22, 2017
Though women make up about half of the U.S. workforce, fewer than one-quarter hold positions in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions. This not only deprives the country’s fastest-growing sector of some of its brightest and most creative minds, it stifles innovation and growth by failing to capitalize on women’s unique perspective of the market economy.

If more women are to join — and succeed in — the STEM professions, economists and scientists agree, they will need strong academic and social support networks at all levels of their education. Against this backdrop, Merrimack this fall will introduce a Women in STEM living-learning community, open to all first-year female students majoring in any of the college’s science, engineering or math disciplines, including the health sciences.

Officials said that students in this cohort, who will live on the third floor of Deegan West, will benefit by exploring and sharing their passion for science and technology with one another in a uniquely supportive environment. They will all take the same STEM-focused First Year Experience course, be offered special lectures and programming geared to a STEM audience and serve as mentors at an after-school science club for girls in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Director of Science and Engineering Programs Maureen Sakakeeny, who has led the development of Women in STEM at Merrimack, will serve as the primary adviser to the residents, and will also teach the specially designed FYE class.

“The goal of Women in STEM is to attract, retain and prepare female students for careers in the STEM industry,” Sakakeeny said. “Merrimack is committed to growing the talent pool for STEM majors, specifically with the female population, which is currently underrepresented in the STEM fields.”

Erin Crowley, a rising senior mechanical engineering major, will serve as the primary resident assistant for the group.

“I am a huge believer in making women feel welcome in the engineering world,” Crowley said. “I am hoping to create a solid community where first-year women feel welcome as STEM students, and will have an RA with common interests who they can come to for advice about classes as well as their future goals.”

Several other female faculty from the STEM disciplines on campus will participate as informal advisers and guest speakers for the group.

The women in STEM community was championed on campus by Madhu Dhar, who explored the topic in her Master of Higher Education capstone project. Dhar was involved in shaping the new program, contributing her experience as a long-time advocate for women in STEM fields.

Interest in the newest living-learning community has been high, but a few spaces remain. For more information, contact residence life.

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