Women's Impact Network Makes Its Mark in Four Years of Grant Awards

WIN Impact Grants have provided more than half a million dollars for a range of initiatives
April 30, 2020

The Women’s Impact Network (WIN) is pleased to announce its fourth year of grant awardees in the 2020–21 grant application process. Fourteen out of 28 applications were funded, totaling $239,628. The applicants represented faculty, staff, students, and alumnae, submitting proposals ranging from student and faculty support, to research, diversity and inclusion, conferences, and leadership.

All grant funds come from Women’s Impact Network member donations.

Grant proposals for initiatives from the WPI community met specific criteria, including providing pathways to advance women at WPI; increasing the number of women in STEM fields; creating a positive difference for women in the extended WPI community; and elevating WPI’s impact and extending its reach around the globe.

Overall, WIN Impact Grants have provided more than half a million dollars, making it possible for hundreds of women and girls to participate in programs, conferences, workshops, and research experiences, according to Stephanie Pasha, assistant vice president of strategic volunteer engagement.

“Whether it's the dozens of participants who have been involved in Sue Sontgerath‘s programs, the students and faculty who have participated in the last two Women in Data Science conferences, the alumnae who participated in the Women of WPI Leadership Conference, or the junior faculty who were tenured and promoted due to mini-grants, it's fair to say that the Women's Impact Network has indeed left its mark in just four years of grant awards,”  Pasha said. “We are so excited about what's to come.”

The following grant applications were awarded:

Alden Voices Endowment

Applicant: Joshua Rohde, Director of Choral Activities

Alden Voices is an all-female choir of over 90 members. The choir strives for excellence in musicality while providing a platform for students to engage with relevant issues, appreciate multiple cultural backgrounds, and interact with the larger Worcester community. Alden Voices was awarded funding to establish an endowment, launching a fund that will support the organization for perpetuity and provide equal opportunities for all on campus.

Bridging the Gap in Gender and Discipline: Women's Impact Network Colloquium Series

Applicant: Jie Fu, Assistant Professor, Robotics Engineering

This program will provide opportunities for female faculty and students to explore cross-disciplinary research areas where women are making significant contributions. Its goal in promoting cross-disciplinary exchanges is to motivate more women to enter robotics, computing, and engineering disciplines, to fully realize their capabilities, and to be positioned to take their rightful place in helping address societal needs through cross-disciplinary approaches in the near future.

Expanding the Early Research Experience in E-Term to promote and support female participation

Applicant: Catherine Whittington, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

This year WPI offers the Early Research Experience in E-Term (EREE) program to provide funding for summer research for early-stage WPI undergraduate students, especially those from historically underrepresented groups. EREE will increase the number of students participating in summer research by connecting WPI undergraduate students to meaningful research experiences for women in STEM. WIN funding will allow the investment to double its reach and impact by supporting additional female students.

GROW: Graduate Research Organization for Women in STEM fields creates an organization for professional development and support of women graduate students

Applicant: Heather LeClerc, PhD candidate, Chemical Engineering

The initiative will create a graduate organization designed to ensure that WPI women graduate students have a safe place to learn, connect with others, and further themselves as women in STEM. It will also provide female graduate students with a framework for supporting their development as leaders in STEM during their tenure at WPI.

Personal and Professional Development Series for Women in Mathematics

Applicant: Elisa Negrini, PhD candidate, Mathematical Sciences

Representing the Association for Women in Mathematics Chapter at WPI, the initiative will develop a four-part panel series for personal and professional development for women in mathematics. One panel session per term will be offered to help graduate and undergraduate mathematics students throughout the process of applying for jobs, internships, and graduate programs while acknowledging and learning how to overcome gender bias and gender discrimination in a historically male-dominated field, such as mathematics.

Supporting Women in Data Science via the Women in Data Science Symposium: Fostering Diversity, Community, Mentorship, Outreach, and Global Impact—all in one!

Applicant: Elke A. Rundensteiner, Professor, Computer Science, and Director, Data Science

The global Women in Data Science (WiDS) conference will inspire students and professionals by featuring exclusively female speakers at more than 100 concurrent locations worldwide. WPI WiDS, as the Central Massachusetts satellite, serves as local hub for mentoring, networking, and inspiring WPI’s community of students, faculty, and professionals with a keynote, career panel, tech talks, poster session, hands-on table projects, and data competitions. The committed group is passionate about bringing this inspiring program to WPI as an annual event.

Taking Collaboration Among Women to the Next Level: Interdisciplinary Presentations by Women Faculty, Alumnae, and Students

Applicant: Rodica Neamtu, Associate Teaching Professor, Computer Science, Data Science

To help build interdisciplinary connections among women faculty, alumnae, and students, the initiative will organize a workshop to immerse participants in diverse disciplines by using a slideshow karaoke model—an improvisational activity where presenters deliver a presentation based on slides they have not seen before. The workshop celebrates the work of women and facilitates meaningful interdisciplinary interactions in a fun, stress-free environment.

Teachers and Learners Ecosystem for Increasing Participation of Women in Physical Sciences and Other STEM Disciplines

Applicant: Lyubov Titova, Associate Professor, Physics

The initiative seeks to empower women in STEM careers, attract motivated women applicants from diverse backgrounds to WPI, and support and retain women students at WPI. It will create a resilient ecosystem that includes the undergraduate and graduate women physics students at WPI, Girls Inc. of Worcester Eureka! program, and a network of Central Massachusetts high school physics teachers who will receive training and tools grounded in STEM education research to support girls in the physics classroom.

Belmont Street Community School STEM Education Equity Development Program

Applicant: Jeannine Coburn, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

The initiative aims to work with K-12 teachers, classroom assistants, and school administrators to create a sustainable model to improve the academic development of students at Belmont Street Community School. Through professional development in STEM education and working with educators to develop engaging and culturally responsive STEM modules, it seeks to improve student interest, confidence, and performance. WPI students and faculty will interact with the Belmont teachers and students to serve as role models.

Using Applied Theatre to Foster Bias Awareness and Intervention

Applicant: Chrysanthe Demetry, Associate Professor, Mechanial Engineering, and director, Morgan Teaching and Learning Center

The project will bring an applied theatre group, PowerPlay Interactive Development, to campus to introduce an engaging mechanism for bias awareness and intervention training for faculty, students, and staff. Sketches and debriefing will address faculty inclusion and evaluation as well as student inclusion and belonging. Assessment results will be used to formulate recommendations to WPI decision makers on how best to sustain ongoing professional development related to bias literacy and intervention.

WIN Women's Young Investigator Fellowship: Providing WPI Students and Faculty with Mentorship and Research Conference Opportunities for Research

Applicant: Avery Harrison, full-time doctoral student, Social Science & Policy Studies, Learning Sciences and Technologies

In its third year through WIN funding, the Women's Young Investigator Fellowship program supports female researchers at WPI. Twenty fellows comprising undergraduate students, graduate students, staff and postdoctoral research scientists, and faculty members will participate in mentoring groups, professional development workshops, and conference preparation. Fellows will receive monetary support for conferences, addressing the need for funding across all stages of research careers.

Women in the STEM World: Showcasing STEM-Education IQPs that Impact Women and Girls

Applicant: Leslie Dodson, Co-Director, The Global Lab

The initiative will investigate the impact of STEM education IQP projects across decades and around the world. The program’s initial WIN grant funded the development of an extensive database of nearly 20 years of IQP projects serving women and girls. With the help of student and faculty researchers, the project will deepen the understanding of STEM education for women and girls to reveal how WPI project work helps support and catalyze global STEM education.

Women of WPI Fall Leadership Conference Workshop

Applicant: Alison LeFlore ’09; Senior Transportation Planner, Stantec

The initiative will engage a professional workshop facilitator for the Fall Leadership Conference. The project seeks to enhance the pool of talented alumnae, faculty, and staff with an outside workshop facilitator to provide an immersive and interactive experience that encourages professional and personal growth for WPI women.

Worcester Women in STEM Pathway Initiative (WWiSPI)

Applicant: Suzanne Sontgerath, Director of Pre-collegiate Outreach Programs

WWiSPI is a combination of several WIN-funded programs and existing WPI programs into a cohesive pathway for young women in Worcester to embark on a journey of exploration of STEM fields. The pathway provides multiple opportunities for the girls to engage with STEM content, explore STEM careers, and be exposed to WPI STEM role models, with the ultimate objective of broadening college and career choices.