Emmanuel College is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through the Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program.
Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Melanie Leussis appreciates how supported her female students feel studying the sciences at Emmanuel. Now, through a new initiative, she looks forward to helping students build the additional skills and confidence to prepare them as leaders of tomorrow in the STEM fields.
The new Women in Science at Emmanuel College initiative (WISE) is dedicated to advancing and promoting women as scientists and science leaders in their chosen fields. Launched this spring thanks to a transformative gift by Joe Fallon, CEO of The Fallon Company, the main goal of the initiative is to increase the retention, advancement, and success of women in STEM fields, particularly in leadership positions, which have historically been male dominated.
“I am thrilled to be able to assist the mission of College President Sister Janet Eisner, SNDdeN and Emmanuel in providing opportunities for young women to pursue careers in STEM and become the next generation of leaders in science and technology,” said Fallon.
Through WISE, Dr. Leussis hopes to create an inclusive, self-sustaining community of Emmanuel women in science. The greater community will also be invited to participate in a variety of events as part of the program, including discussions, networking opportunities and events, alumni panels, professional development/leadership workshops, and more.
“Emmanuel has been educating women in STEM for more than a century,” said Dr. Leussis, who serves as director of WISE. “It feels nice to put this initiative into effect and provide additional professional development for our female science students.”
WISE’s inaugural networking event took place on February 16th and included women leaders from the broader science community. The virtual event connected female undergraduate students with panelists representing organizations such as NASA, Takeda, BSC Group and others.
“I felt that the Women in Science Networking Panel was an invaluable experience, especially as a senior about to enter the work force and launch into the rest of my career,” said McKenzie Leahy ’22. “It was extremely helpful to be given the opportunity to connect with established women in STEM, within a wide range of careers.”
Alumni were also featured as part of the panel, including: Devan Phillips ’19, a scientific researcher at Genentech; Jenn Scarborough ’17, museum learning coordinator: Makerspace & STEM at Please Touch Museum; and Jolie Xifaras ’15, rare disease HCP navigator at Pfizer. Upcoming WISE events include a co-sponsored event with Emmanuel’s Department of Art on March 22nd entitled “Portraits of Women in Science” as well as an alumni panel on April 4th.
Starting in the fall 2022, the initiative will establish WISE Scholars, who will serve as the “backbone of the initiative” moving forward. Through these 20 application-based opportunities, female students studying the sciences will gain specialized leadership and advocacy training, one-to-one mentorship opportunities and dedicated internship experiences. Applications for the WISE Scholars program will be available later this spring.
“We’re building a community,” said Dr. Leussis. “This is an area where women are still underrepresented within STEM, from speaking at conferences to leaderships roles. We need to see this change. We need to see women of color included in the movement. These voices are important and we want to see them out there.”