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WISE Women
photo by Tim Fitzgerald

WISE Women

by Deb Derrick, Ann Fruhling and Connie Jones

Women can be wise at any age.

Eleven young women - high school juniors and seniors from across the state - learned about information science and engineering careers at the fourth Women in Information Science & Engineering (WISE) workshop Oct. 26-27 in Omaha. Each student was accompanied by a sponsor from her school. The workshop, referred to as WISE Women, was directed by Dr. Ann Fruhling, an assistant professor with UNO's College of Information Science & Technology (IS&T) at The Peter Kiewit Institute, who was assisted by Connie Jones, IS&T outreach coordinator.

"Our intent is to expose young women to career opportunities in information technology and engineering at a time when they are making important decisions about their future," Dr. Fruhling said. "We were very pleased with this year's participation."

WISE Women began with a Friday evening trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo, where participants got a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo's research facilities and heard a presentation by reproductive physiologist Dr. Naida Loskutoff. After dinner, everyone enjoyed a showing of the 3-D IMAX movie "Deep Sea".

Saturday was a full day of technology sessions at PKI, including lighting and acoustics, bioinformatics, animation and programming, project management and assembled various components of a computer. During lunch the students were joined by PKI faculty members, followed by a career panel of women in information technology and engineering. Six students had their names drawn to take home a computer system of their own.

Letters were sent to high schools throughout Nebraska in early September asking school counselors to nominate students for WISE Women. Those asked to attend were chosen from this list of nominees based upon ACT scores, grades, and overall performance in school.

"We know that women are seriously underrepresented in careers related to information technology and engineering," Dr. Fruhling said. According to a recent report by the National Council for Research on Women:

  • In 1984, women earned 37 percent of UG degrees in computer science, but in the last 15 years, that number has gone down to 20 percent.
  • In 1996, women were 45 percent of the national workforce, but only 12 percent of science and engineering jobs
  • 1996, women earned only 18 percent of engineering degrees
  • Less than 10 percent of full professors in the sciences today are women, despite the fact that women have been earning more than one-quarter of the Ph.D.s in science for 30 years

Funding for WISE Women was provided by the Women's Fund of Greater Omaha, the Women's Fund Little Women grant, Nebraska EPSCoR, The Peter Kiewit Institute and the College of IS&T.

* * *

WISE Women student participants and their high schools: Abigail Kenny, Wayne; Brittany Rosberg, Wausa; Debra Johnson, Perkins; Kylie Parshall, Perkins; Bailey Streamlau, Skutt Catholic; Katelyn Moravec, Arlington; Rebecca Goodwin, Arlington; Jennifer Doty, West Boyd; Christina Kuhfal, Neligh-Oakdale; Jamie Jones, Lincoln Southwest; and Megan Kauk, Holdrege.

WISE Women teacher or sponsor participants and their high schools: Elizabeth Maryott, Wayne; Dawn Friedrich, Wausau; Deanne Bishop, Perkins; Margarat Stiller, Plattsmouth; Mark Schnitzler, Skutt Catholic;  Jason Morphew, Arlington; Jean Doty, West Boyd; Laurel Miller, Neligh-Oakdale; Cory Free, Lincoln Southwest; and Terry Shield, Holdrege.


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