I was very involved with WICSE in the mid-1980's, including the WICSE 10th Anniversary celebration in 1987. I received my PhD in EECS in 1988 and joined the ECE faculty at UW-Madison after a postdoc. I was promoted to full professor in 2001, a little over a year after the birth of my twins. UW-Madison has recently initiated an exciting new NSF-funded program called WISELI (Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute - http://wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/) with the goal of "institutional transformation." Through WISELI, we have been able to develop a number of programs to improve the environment for women in science and engineering.
--Amy Wendt, University of Wisconsin-Madison
One of the first year women grad students came up to me
and said, 'I'm having an argument with my officemate about the
percentage of women in the Department. He thinks it is less than ten
percent, but I think it is more like 40-50%, isn't it?' I told her it's really about 15%.
What she didn't realize was that because of the weekly WICSE lunches she knew a
large percentage of the women in the Department. In fact, half the
people she knew were women.
--Professor Dawn Tilbury, University of Michigan
is my philosophy statement, which is basically the story of my life:
Extraordinary results are often achieved by average people with extreme focus and willpower. Life is a series of defining moments, where you decide what goals you will set for yourself and then decide whether to really go for it or not. The key is whether you decide or if you are doing something because you think this is what you are supposed to do. For me, there were some key defining moments throughout my education that brought me to where I am now. My advice is to really think about what YOU want and find a way to accomplish these goals.
-- Dr. Lisa Buckman Windover, Agilent Laboratories
Hi! I entered the EECS Department in the Fall of 1991, with a B.S. in computer
science and no children. I graduated with a Ph.D. (and two young children)
in 1999. As you might infer from this, I tend to do things the hard way ;-).
When I started at Berkeley, the EECS Department did not have any official
policies regarding graduate student parents (neither did the university). The
more I spoke with other graduate student parents in the department, the more
convinced we became that such policies were really needed. Together with
Ginger Ogle, Soheila Bana, and Huma Dar, I helped design and draft the EECS
parent policies, and presented them to the EECS faculty for adoption. We
succeeded in convincing the EECS department to adopt the policies, and eventually
the University adopted similar policies for all graduate student parents.
The EECS graduate student parental policy can be found at:
I believe these policies have helped make a difference for many graduate student parents, and I am proud to have had a part in bringing them about.
-- Dr. Caroline Tice, Apple
learned a lot while I was serving as the WICSE co-president (including
organizing the 20th Anniversary Celebration) and met some of my
best friends in the process. Between the weekly WICSE lunch and my good
fortune in having a gender-balanced research group, my graduate school
experience defied the general perception of a male-dominated engineering
program. I am really grateful to be able to work in such a
supportive and dynamic environment! Now, as a member of the ECE faculty, I
hope to help create a similar environment in U. C. Davis. I am
working with the Women in Engineering (WIE) office at Davis, which
previously focused on undergrads, to develop new programs for graduate
students. My motto in life? AIM, not try, to make a difference, no
matter how small it may seem.
--Professor Chen-Nee Chuah, UC Davis
The survey report "Ph.D. Student Attrition in the EECS Department at the University of California, Berkeley," was a way to find out why many of our
peers--brilliant people, male and female--decided to leave the Ph.D. program. It felt like such a waste of talent. We wanted something
quantitative, concrete, to see if we could make a difference. We wanted to
find what factors could make the environment better for everyone, perhaps keeping more talent, as well as improving the experiences of those who
It was a snapshot in time of those who entered in 1981-1986 and left in 1982-1994. These were times when people were less likely to be plucked out of the classrooms for very lucrative dot-com opportunities. We sent out 190 surveys to those who left the program and 97 were returned, which is an astounding response rate for a long survey (141 questions). So people had some strong feelings about the process.
The biggest myth was that those who left "couldn't hack it." In actuality, the biggest factor in leaving were personal reasons and a change in career goals. These were closely followed by issues with the department, their advisors, the academic process, including the length of stay and all the "hoops" the one needed to jump through to completion. It appeared there was work to be done improving the ability of advisors to guide their students. Many people had even passed prelims. A large proportion had fellowship support, which failed to keep them in.
Some notable outcomes were that there were very few big gender differences in reasons for leaving. One difference was that some men and no women had problems with housing. Another interesting outcome was that a few white males considered themselves "minorities," enough to note it on their survey.
--Dr. Linda Kamas, Agilent Technologies
I had the good fortune of being a graduate student in computer science at UC
Berkeley during a very exciting time - the late '70s. The precursor of the
internet was just starting up, Unix was being developed, and notions about
how to measure the "goodness" of algorithms had recently been fleshed out.
Computer science was in flux, and we felt like pioneers. It was pretty neat.
During the past few years, I have moved away from research and am instead working in another new and rapidly expanding field, namely computing technology policy. I am trying to prevent the exciting technologies that have been developed during the past few decades from being used for harmful purposes. Examples of harmful uses are privacy invasive technologies, technologies that eliminate user rights under copyright law, and insecure computerized voting machines (and internet voting) that could be used to "fix" elections. Computing technology policy combines computer science and the law. Currently, most policy makers have little to no understanding of computer science. Fortunately, there are a number of people with computer science degrees who are studying to become lawyers, including at least three of my former students.
--Professor Barbara Simons, Stanford University
I arrived in January í83 to start my graduate studies at Berkeley, I
felt overwhelmed. There was a lot to learn to get oriented and it didnít help
that I arrived mid-year. I
was right in the middle of a divorce, which made me feel awkward asking
for help from my male colleagues. WICSE
gave me the haven I needed to feel connected to the EECS student body and
get me started on the right foot. I
even found a couple women who had gone through a divorce, who gave me some
very welcome support. I hope
I paid back some of these kind gifts by helping to run the program in
subsequent years. Take advantage of WICSE while you can; when you get out in
the working world, youíll find a more diverse population and the support
network a bit more sparse.
--Dr. Myra Boenke, IBM Burlington
My first introduction to WICSE was as a reentry student. I had been a professional ballet dancer all of my life prior to entering the reentryprogram. To supplement my meager dancer's salary, I had also tutored in the academic subjects as well as in SAT preparation.
When my ballet company lost its funding, I lost my job and I was too old to get a job with another ballet company. It was clear that full-time tutoring would not provide an adequate, steady income, so I decided to pursue a "real, serious" career. I discovered the reentry program, applied and was accepted.
Up until my first day of classes I was wide-eyed, bushy tailed, and eager to go. Ignorance really was bliss! After my first day of classes, however, reality hit me hard. Whatever was I thinking, I wondered! I became terrified and intimidated because I had no idea about what the professor was talking, and everyone, the undergrads and the other reentry students who were in my classes with me, had way more experience and knew so much more than I did. (I had never even sent or received an email before, yet that was the only way to get the information necessary to survive in the class!) What was I going to do? How was I going to survive? Somehow I met Ginger Ogle. She encouraged me to come to the WICSE lunches on Fridays to get some support and make some contacts. On the following Friday, she came, found me, and dragged me to the lunch!
I remember that first lunch very well. I felt like I definitely didn't belong! These were all really smart, experienced, successful graduate women working on important things! It was obvious I was way our of my league! But everyone was so supportive and encouraging. They all told me that they, too, felt like I was feeling on more than one occasion. Everyone offered their technical help, their guidance and advise. So from that point on I attended the lunches every week faithfully, got to know all these wonderful, intelligent, helpful women, some of whom were also reentry students like myself, and somehow made it through that first semester!
I made some lasting friendships from this era, and I have never forgotten how much the women of WICSE helped and supported me in more ways than just academically and professionally. After several semesters of very hard work, lots of all nighters, and many WICSE Friday lunches, I finally made it into graduate school, and at Berkeley, no less! I remember my first WICSE Friday lunch as a graduate student. I finally felt I truly belonged there! I was finally really "one of the girls!" Because I knew what an important roll WICSE had played in my own life at Berkeley, I wanted to carry on the spirit of WICSE for all the women coming after me. And because I wanted to give something back to WICSE, I accepted and was privileged to serve as the WICSE president for three semesters.
On my watch we made a formal presentation and suggested appropriate department-wide policies to the faculty at their faculty retreat about how to handle situations in which their graduate student is being impacted by a serious, life-changing event, such as the death of, a serious illness of, or an accident to, or the birth of an immediate family member. Although this type of hardship can befall any graduate student, we knew that in most cultures these kinds of life events generally impact the lives of the women more than those of their male peers, since in most societies the women usually serve the roll of care givers and nurturers more so than the men do. In addition, during my watch we put a lot of energy into contacting the new women admits each spring shortly after they had received their acceptance notices to encourage them to choose Berkeley for their graduate school. I made myself and other WICSE volunteers email available for answering any of their questions. Both springs we noticed a higher percentage of women accepting!
Therefore I encourage the current WICSE members to make a concerted effort to reach out to those new women admits before they have made their final graduate school choice and let them know that WICSE exists and can (and does) support them through the whole decision process and, if they should choose Berkeley, through their graduate careers. Let them know about the big sister program and how special the WICSE group at Berkeley really is. And always remember that helping a new graduate student can make a significant difference, not only for the student but also for the WICSE organization at Berkeley. The more WICSE members, the better the organization, the bigger the voice, and the more opportunity to equalize the engineering playing field.
I thank WICSE for all the support, friendships, and opportunities it brought into my life. I will always be grateful.
--Randi Thomas, UC Berkeley