Wanted: more women students!

Oct 24, 2002

Kettering's new director of Women Student Affairs knows there's no skirting her biggest challenge: Kettering needs more women students!

Kettering's new director of Women Student Affairs knows there's no skirting her biggest challenge: Kettering needs more women students!

So Betsy Homsher, who joined the staff this summer, accepted responsibility for increasing the number of women students on campus well above its current 18 percent.

"Kettering has created this new position to reflect the University's commitment to recruiting and retaining women students," she said. "This University knows that women have important and unique contributions to make in defining our technological future. My job is to encourage their participation in that future.

"Research tells us what high school girls look for when choosing an engineering school, as well as what helps them succeed in college," she explained. "We'll address both facets. In some cases, we just need to spread the word about Kettering; in others, we need to implement programs and policies that appeal to the young women we want to attract."

Young women are particularly drawn to designing products that make a difference in an individual's life: things like safety equipment and artificial limbs and organs. In August, Kettering kicked off the inaugural Lives Improve through Engineering Program (LITE). This two-week residential program attracted more than 30 high school girls interested in exploring bioengineering - one of the fastest growing engineering fields and one of Kettering's specialties. "Now that they know what we can offer them, we expect several of our LITE participants to attend Kettering next year," Homsher said.

Many engineering schools face the same difficulties in recruiting and retaining women students. Kettering's ratio of women-to-men is less than one-to-five, about the same at other small, private technological schools in the country. Among public universities with flagship engineering programs, women average 23-25 percent of the student population.

"We know what women students need to succeed, academically and professionally. We'll introduce a variety of mentoring opportunities, create a speaker's series, offer panel discussion on family and careers, get more scholarship money, and showcase our women faculty members as we move forward," Homsher said. "Our ultimate goal is to help more women realize their potential through engineering."

Homsher comes to campus from Central Connecticut State University where she taught American history, women's history, and Women's Studies for three years. Originally from California, she holds a master's degree in American Studies and a bachelor's degree in Humanities from San Francisco State University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Written by Pat Mroczek
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