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Women Becoming WiSE: Gender, Professional Development, and Programming for Success

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Faculty Career Development

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1481.1 - 25.1481.15



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Paper Authors

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Sarah Miraglia Syracuse University


Sharon W. Alestalo Syracuse University

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Sharon W. Alestalo, M.S., is the Program Director for Syracuse University’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program within the colleges of Engineering and Computer Science and Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Alestalo came to the university with 25 years of practical and executive experience in social action venues and eight years in higher education settings. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from the University at Albany in sociology and rehabilitation counseling, respectively. In addition to managing programs in the academy, Alestalo has worked with adults with a variety of disabilities and with children and families in both service and administrative capacities. During this time, she has developed an expertise in girls and women’s issues, cultural competency, managing not-for-profit agencies, and program development and evaluation.

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Shobha K. Bhatia Syracuse University

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Shobha Bhatia’s areas of specialization are geotechnical and geosynthetic engineering. Her research is funded through an extensively funded research program, and she has produced more than 80 technical publications in prestigious journals and conference proceedings, along with invited participation in national and international conferences and key note addresses, short-courses, and service and leadership on numerous technical committees. Bhatia’s extensive research has achieved both breadth and depth, ranging from the material characterization of soils to the application of geosynthetics and natural materials in waste containment, road and building construction, and erosion control. She has held numerous offices such as Vice President of the North American Geosynthetics Society (NAGS) and member of the prestigious Technical Committees Council and International Activities Committee Task Force of the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Her collaborative research is further evidenced by her new vision which brought together the leaders in the field, ranging from psychology, management, law, public policy, and sociology to deal with a variety of issues concerning women and leadership. A case in point is the awarding of the ADVANCE Institutional Transformational Award for Women in Engineering Leadership Institute (WELI) (National Science Foundation, May 2003-2006). This multi-institutional proposal was accomplished by Bhatia and other internationally-renowned leaders from Utah University, Iowa University, University of California at Davis, University of Central Florida, Guelph University, and University of Louisiana. The main findings and contributions resulted in a coauthored book entitled “Engineering Women and Leadership,” published by Morgan & Claypool Publisher, La Porte, Colo.

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Women Becoming WiSE: Gender, Professional Development and Programming for SuccessAuthors: Shobha Bhatia, Sharon Alestalo, and Sarah MiragliaWhile women have made great strides in science, technology, engineering and mathematics(STEM) disciplines, considerable gender based inequalities persist. The XYZ FutureProfessionals Program (FPP) at ________ University is a collaborative endeavor between theGraduate School and Colleges of Engineering and Computer Science and Arts and Sciences thatseeks to redress these inequalities. Having begun as a pilot project in the 2007-2008 academicyear, FPP is now an active and growing program that provides professional development andacademic support to graduate and doctoral women in STEM disciplines. Its efforts areconcentrated on augmenting the skills, competencies and capacities of women students. Its goalsinclude women’s access, promotion and endurance in STEM fields and disciplines. Thecontinued need for and value of FPP is borne out in the persistent underrepresentation andresulting tensions surrounding women graduate students working towards professional andacademic careers in sciences and engineering.FPP was conceived at the intersection of two major gaps in academic support services: the lackof attention to the professional development of graduate students in STEM disciplines, and adearth of knowledge and action aimed at dismantling gender based inequalities. In regards to theformer, FPP focuses on developing professional skills for female graduate students seekingemployment either in industry or at research universities. This focus differs from an existingprogram administered by the Graduate School that provides support for students seekingacademic career paths especially teaching in higher education. While valuable to many, this andother existing programs do not address the particular needs of students who intend to pursueresearch-based STEM careers in industry, government and other sectors. The second gapaddressed by FPP focuses on the lack of attention to the different challenges that confrontwomen STEM scholars both inside and outside of academia. In this regard, FPP offersprogramming that confronts tensions surrounding the multiple and competing demands made onwomen’s lives, and enlists the support of experienced women faculty to guide and mentor FPPparticipants in the subtleties of effectively practicing and engaging others with the professionaland interpersonal skills that are increasingly necessary for career success including careermapping and job searches, networking, communication, teamwork, self-awareness andevaluation, and conflict management. By gaining competence in each of these domains, womendoctoral students can address the challenges created by the pervasive and stubbornly resilientmasculine norms and values that have historically taken shape in STEM. Today, women studentsare often thus disadvantaged not by an inequality of opportunity but by an inequality of accessthat supports persistence and career success. FPP uniquely seeks to bolster women’s abilities toflourish professionally using key skills and knowledge to brilliantly navigate within these maledominated fields.  

Miraglia, S., & Alestalo, S. W., & Bhatia, S. K. (2012, June), Women Becoming WiSE: Gender, Professional Development, and Programming for Success Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22238

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