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Faculty Form Women in STEM Group

March 3, 2017

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Texas Lutheran University Physics Department Chair Dr. Toni Sauncy credits the guidance of a very influential female professor as to why she pursued physics. While Sauncy acknowledges that many male professors serve as mentors to women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), she admits she never would have gone into her field if not for the inspiration and “push” from a female scientist.

Led by Sauncy, the newly formed Women in TLU STEM (WiTS) group includes professors from the fields of chemistry, biology, physics, math, and computer science. Establishing a place where women in STEM can not only discuss their areas of interest and network with national organizations, but share personal experiences, was important to her and her colleagues.

Both Sauncy and Associate Biology Professor Dr. Danielle Grove look forward to learning from their peers and fostering strong bonds with female students.

"I think it is important for women in STEM fields to come together periodically to support each other in our common experiences but it also gives us opportunities to brainstorm ways we can support our female students,” Grove said.

Other areas of focus for WiTS are discussing things women in these fields encounter things men usually don’t like how they might be perceived in the classroom, being the only female in a class or teaching a class, and having their work subtly diminished.

“I take a group to the Undergraduate Conference For Women in Physics and it’s so amazing for them to be among other young women doing the same work they are doing,” Sauncy said. “It’s important for them to be part of those events and be around others like them. While it might be rare on campus, they see there is a larger group of them out there.”

Highlighting and honoring the contributions of women in STEM is also important to the group. Hidden Figures—the untold story of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan, three African American mathematicians working at NASA to send astronaut John Glenn into space—was extremely moving for Sauncy.

“Their courage and grit to be successful is inspirational and remarkable,” Sauncy said. “It’s really all about persistence and doing what you love. We want to support our female students so they have that same determination and grit.”

Current WiTS Members:

Lecturer Cathy Beicker, math

Assistant Professor Dr. Alison Bray, chemistry

Lecturer Rebecca Clark, math

Associate Professor Dr. Danielle Grove, biology

Assistant Professor Dr. Stephanie Perez, biology

Associate Professor Dr. Betseygail Rand, math

Professor Dr. Toni Sauncy, physics

Assistant Professor Erin Scanlon, physics

Professor Dr. Linda F. Wilson, computer science