Million Women Mentors-Indiana recently honored Indiana State University for its contributions to advancing women in STEM careers.
The Indiana MWM Stand Up for STEM Award recognizes and celebrates the work of companies, individuals and organizations in Indiana that have contributed significantly to advancing women in STEM careers through MWM and mentoring.
Indiana’s Honorary Chair of Million Women Mentors and Ivy Tech President Sue Ellsperman presented the award to Indiana State’s College of Technology at the organization’s Nov. 7 conference in Indianapolis. Bev Bitzegaio, director of outreach and student career support in the College of Technology, accepted the award on behalf of the university.
“The college is honored to be the recipient of this award,” said Kara Harris, interim dean of the College of Technology. “The faculty and staff at the university who support students, either formally or informally, make a real difference in the students’ lives at the university and their careers. We continue to do this because it is simply what we do. We are here to support students and assist them in academic and post-graduation success.”
As a first-generation student from Sullivan County, Harris earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Indiana State, and then earned a doctoral degree at Clemson University before returning to Terre Haute.
“Having been in their shoes myself several years ago as a College of Technology student, I understand the importance of what we are doing,” Harris said. “Although no programming like this was available at that time, there were several faculty members who took the extra time to help me and many other students along the way — Dr. Robert Schacht, Mr. Dale McConchie, Dr. Jeff McNabb, Mr. David Malooley and many others. They took on the informal mentoring roles that helped me in my academics and to assist in making me career-ready.”
State’s College of Technology has employed strategies over the past 15 years to increase the enrollment, persistence and success of women in engineering and technology fields. Two of the most significant efforts have been closely connected with mentoring: the Females in Technology, a student organization coordinated by Bitzegaio is in its 12th year of supporting and connecting female students in technology, and Destination Success, a career-readiness program started in 2015.
These efforts have helped the College of Technology increase female enrollment from five percent to nearly 12 percent. More important than the increased enrollment numbers, however, is the influence mentoring has on the students to encourage other young women to explore options in STEM career fields.
“It is wonderful to see so many students who are participating in these opportunities. I am very proud of the work students put into the programming and transformation I see in students from the academic to professional areas of their lives. I am very proud of the faculty members and industry partners we work with that make these opportunities possible,” Harris said. “These individuals work with us, not for compensation, but because of the intrinsic motivation they have in helping others succeed. The COT’s Destination Success is a completely voluntary program that runs on soft funding — and is making a big difference.”
Harris was a founding member and co-coordinator of the Destination Success Program with Mary McGuire of Carmel.
“It’s the right thing to do. All students choosing a technology field will have great careers and salaries,” said McGuire, an Indiana State alumna who spent her career as a packaging engineer and operations/engineering manager. “It’s great to see our vision become a reality in Destination Success. The participation in the program continues to grow and is now open to all women in the College of Technology.”
Females in Technology members plan a “FIT for the Future” conference each year as a career exploration event that offers hands-on activities in workshops facilitated by college FiT members. More than a dozen professional women also share their experiences working in technology and engineering fields.
“It helps the students understand what people actually do in these career fields, how diverse the options really are and how their skills and interests can connect to technology and engineering,” Bitzegaio said.
The chance to talk with women, who are professionals in technology, as well as college students studying in those fields, is an important aspect of the FIT conference. “Research shows that role models influence what fields students go into,” said Bitzegaio. “Mentors can help mentees learn how to connect their interests with a variety of career fields.”
The Indiana Conference for Women is dedicated to the educational and professional development of women in Indiana and the Midwest. It is one of the largest gatherings of professional and women entrepreneurs in the Midwest and was designed to reach all women from all professions and career levels, including women entrepreneurs.
The event on Nov. 7 featured actress and author Diane Keaton, New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, former Chanel global CEO Maureen Chiquet and co-founders of the career site The Muse, Kathryn Minshew and Alexandra Cavoulacos.
“It is important for all students to have opportunities in STEM fields, as the more diverse we make our academic programs, the more diverse our workforce and leadership will be longterm,” Harris said.
And State isn’t satisfied with the achievements it has made and awards it has won — there’s always more work to do, according to Harris.
“The college will continue to work with students to assist them in success at the university and post-graduation. We are proud of the diversity we have in the college and the efforts that have been made to celebrate diversity,” Harris said. “The College of Technology will continue to explore new ways to meet the needs of all students. We plan to open a Center for Student Success in during the spring of 2018. This center will focus on assisting students in academic success and career readiness by working with partners from the broader campus and industry partners. Broad-ranging programming will be available and tailored to meet the needs of all students.”