While CCE has made great strides in increasing the number of female faculty members, the school continues its work in encouraging women to pursue degrees in civil and construction engineering. Erica Fischer, assistant professor of structural engineering, developed a new program, Women in CCE, to support that effort.
“The goal is to build a community within CCE so we can engage and support all of our students a little bit better,”
The program kicked off with a dinner in the Kearney Hall atrium, followed by a breakfast and industry panel. The first step in the program was for faculty members to introduce themselves to students in an informal setting – and introduce students to one another.
“I teach seniors,” Fischer said. “In my first term at Oregon State, a student said, ‘You’re the first female faculty member that I’ve had in four years,’ and this made me sad.”
“Students want to see examples of themselves as they go through their career, and having a female faculty member at the front of the classroom gives them that example,” Fischer said. “But if that’s what it’s going to take to retain students, then having my class at the senior level is too late.”
The program events are open to all students – of any gender – and all faculty members, so students have more opportunities to connect and develop mentors. About 50 students participated regularly in the events and the school will conduct a survey on climate and culture annually to identify what’s working well and what isn’t.
“I’m sure we’re already doing a great job building community but we can always do a little bit better,” Fischer said.