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UIC Center for Research on Women and Gender receives Presidential Award

The Center for Research on Women and Gender, Women in Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago is among four organizations and 11 individuals across the U.S. to receive the 2011 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

UIC is the only award recipient in Illinois.

The award, announced by President Obama Jan. 21, honors the UIC center's WISE mentoring initiatives. It includes a $10,000 grant for continued mentoring work. Mentors will receive their awards at a White House ceremony Jan. 27.

"These individuals and organizations have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the United States remains on the cutting edge of science and engineering for years to come," Obama said. "Their devotion to the educational enrichment and personal growth of their students is remarkable, and these awards represent just a small token of our enormous gratitude."

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering -- particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields.

The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education programs across all fields of science and engineering, administers the awards on behalf of the White House.

The center's WISE initiative has worked to increase the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics since its founding in 1991. The center created the WISE program in 2002 to provide enhanced capacity for mentoring on campus and in the community.

"During the past nine years we have reached out to thousands of girls and young women -- from grade school through undergraduates -- to recruit, retain and advance the fields of science, technology, engineering and math," said Stacie Geller, G. William Arends Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UIC and director of the center.

WISE has built a strong network with community organizations and local businesses to attract grade school girls to math and science, provided tutoring for pre-college young women to improve their math and science college proficiency scores, and implemented a comprehensive peer mentoring program for undergraduate women in of science, technology, engineering and math majors.

"This grant will allow us to expand our mentoring programs to graduate students to increase the numbers of women advancing in science, technology, engineering and math programs and increase the participation of women in related academic and professional careers," said Veronica Arreola, director of Women in Science and Engineering program and assistant director of the center.

Participants in WISE mentoring initiatives have a 76 percent, 6-year graduation rate; WISE travel grants have allowed over 120 graduate women to present research at professional meetings and conferences; and more than 1,300 sixth through 12th grade students have received on-line mentoring from 225 science, technology, engineering and math professions, according to Arreola.

Center programs also extend to faculty through WISEST, Women in Science and Engineering System Transformation, a program launched by the center and senior UIC administration and funded by a $3.3 million NSF grant in 2006. The initiative has made a priority of increasing the number and leadership status of women and under-represented minority faculty in academic science and engineering at UIC.

Along with Gellar and Arreola, the UIC team that submitted the proposal and will accept the award includes Sarah Shirk, director of Community Outreach for Health for the center and director of pre-college outreach for WISE; and Manorama Khare, director of evaluation and senior research specialist for the center and director of evaluation for WISEST.

The other institutional award recipients are:

  • Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Stevens Institute of Technology, N.J.
  • Baccalaureate and Beyond Community College Mentoring Program, State University of New York, Purchase College, N.Y.
  • Grinnell Science Project, Grinnell College, Iowa


Contact: Sherri McGinnis Gonzlez
University of Illinois at Chicago

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