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  • Collegian staff

Women in STEM feel supported by Willamette community

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Bridget Bodor


The graphic shows a woman in science. Elements around her show different symbols of technology, science, mathematics and engineering. Graphic by Anushka Srivastav.

There is no shortage of female scientists at Willamette University. From Mathematics to Exercise and Health Science, there are women in STEM in all corners of the WU campus. In a world that is constantly experiencing scientific revolutions, bright, determined and flourishing scientists are a necessity. Willamette is no stranger to sharp and driven individuals, and the women in STEM of this community are no exception. However, gender disparities are a common occurrence in the STEM community. Men are getting paid more, receiving more funding and are generally over-represented in STEM. Despite this, many WU women in STEM majors feel very supported by their professors, peers and community as a whole.

Raised by two scientists, April Holland (‘23) has had STEM in her blood since day one. As a Biology major and Environmental Science minor, Holland has taken multiple STEM classes each semester during her time at Willamette. She's always been an outdoorsy kid, and having her mom as a scientific mentor has only increased her love and interest for all things science. When asked what triggered her love for science, she responded “My mom and I both have really similar interests in biology and microbiology, and I always loved learning about it and going home and talking to her about it.”

Having an empowering female mentor impacted pre-med student Maddie Chastain (‘23) with her STEM decisions as well. “My grandma was a nurse, and I always looked up to her because she lived a life of helping people,” Chastain said, noting that her grandma and her family valued helping others over themselves. She is an aspiring ER Physician, and thinks that her professors and advisors have been extremely helpful in setting her up for her future. When talking with older WU women in STEM, Chastain heard all good things about the professors’ dedication to helping their female students. She said, “[the professors] are really inclusive of everyone” and that they acknowledge that STEM fields historically have been dominated by white males and are finding ways to highlight those outside of this category to their students. Both Chastain and Holland appreciate being surrounded by fellow women in STEM in their majors, and feel challenged and supported by their peers.

As a lifelong athlete, Sydney Wilson (‘22) has always had an interest in the human body and how it functions. Majoring in Exercise and Health Science (EXHS), Wilson has been able to translate these aspects of her studies to her athletic career while simultaneously moving down the path of becoming a physician's assistant. During her time in the EXHS department at Willamette, Wilson has felt extremely supported and empowered as her career goals have evolved. She stated that her professors have been “super accommodating to all questions in current or [about] future classes'' and have been extremely dedicated to helping her pursue her goals. Additionally, she's felt very well supported by both her female and male peers and is proud to see a pretty even split between male and female Exercise and Health Science majors.

Mathematics major Paige Murray (‘22) feels the same way. Murray said that she's had multiple conversations with two of her female professors about feelings of imposter syndrome as a woman in STEM, both of whom helped her realize that she is not alone in these feelings. They helped her overcome doubt and uncertainty and pushed her to pursue the major that leaves her most fulfilled, which is math. In a historically male dominated field, she had some apprehension prior to joining her major here at WU. Murray stated, “I wouldn't have been comfortable pursuing a math major if I didn't talk to the woman role models in STEM at WU.” Her professors showed her that if math is something she is passionate about then she is good enough to be in the major, and although her nerves were understandable they weren't a reason to not fulfill her goals.

Holland, Chastain, Wilson and Murray are only a small part of the women in STEM community at Willamette University. All four of these students have high aspirations and career goals, and are excited to integrate themselves into the STEM community after their time at Willamette comes to an end.

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