Experience Project


The University of Michigan has a long-standing concern about the under-representation of women, including women of color, in the fields of science, engineering, and mathematics. For the past fifteen years, the University of Michigan's Women in Science and Engineering Program (WISE) at the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), in collaboration with UM academic units, has developed numerous intervention programs, conducted research, and served as advocates for girls and women along the entire scientific education pipeline, from elementary school through graduate school and beyond, to their first professional appointment.

Despite this abundance of opportunity for study, the University of Michigan (UM), similar to other institutions nationally, still experiences a significant gender stratification among science and engineering disciplines. The phenomenon of "the higher, the fewer" is very evident within UM's engineering and physical science departments, both at the graduate level and, consequently, at the faculty level. In the 1994 fall semester, only 11% of the doctoral students within the College of Engineering were female, while 5% of the faculty were women. Likewise, within the physics and applied physics department, 21% of the graduate students and 3% of the faculty were female. In chemistry, 33% of the graduate students were women while 6% of the faculty were female.

The Graduate Experience Project was initiated, with the assistance of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to improve the recruitment and retention of women graduate students in the engineering, physics, applied physics and chemistry disciplines at UM. This collaborative effort draws on the University's strong academic and research backgrounds to evaluate the reasons why women graduate students select to attend the University and whether they leave prior to degree completion. This information is used to develop interventions, systemic or not, to assist women reach their academic and professional potential.

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