Where Women Succeed in STEM

When I was in high school, I met with my school counselor who wanted to know what career path I wanted to follow. He told me I could choose from teacher, nurse or salesperson. I didn’t like blood and I thought I would be terrible at sales, so education it was. Don’t get me wrong, that career choice has worked out well for me, but I would like to have had other options from which to choose. My counselor never suggested that I could be a doctor, for example, instead of a nurse. He never mentioned scientist, mathematician, engineer, or any of the other careers in what are called the STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

If I had rejected my counselor’s suggestions and decided I wanted to pursue a career in say, engineering, I’m not sure how supportive my college or university would have been. Women interested in those fields generally did not find a welcoming environment for their “non-traditional” majors back then.

Today, women can choose from so many careers! Cottey has alumnae who have become cancer researchers, architects, engineers, rocket scientists, psychologists, and doctors. When Cottey added baccalaureate degrees in biology and health and biomedical sciences, they quickly became two of the most popular majors among our students. In addition to our qualified faculty, Cottey offers another advantage to women who come here for a STEM major.

According to a report1 from the Council of Independent Colleges, (CIC) small to mid-size colleges do a better job in educating both women and people of color in STEM fields. Specifically, the report noted that “Private nonprofit non-doctoral colleges—the ones most closely representative of the CIC—show the highest persistence rates among women, blacks, and Latinos/Latinas in STEM fields within five years of first baccalaureate enrollment when compared to similar students at other types of institutions. Almost eight of 10 women who obtain STEM bachelor’s degrees from private nonprofit non-doctoral institutions graduate within four years, a rate that exceeds all other groups of students at all other types of institutions.”

And it’s not just that women in STEM fields graduate on time; of the women who started their college careers majoring in STEM fields at private, nonprofit non-doctoral institutions, 61 percent persisted in STEM fields. This rate was the highest for women across all institutional sectors.

Tenzin Engsel, Cottey Class of 2019, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Today Tenzin is a graduate student at the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University where she is part of a team of researchers investigating how to generate energy from coffee! Cierra Carlson, also a biology major (with minors in chemistry and psychology) from the Class of 2019, was accepted into Creighton University’s doctor of physical therapy program. Melanie Dillon, ’19, recently began a position as a Research Technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer research center in Seattle.

Cottey offers women the opportunity to prepare for careers in science with baccalaureate degrees in biology or health and biomedical sciences. Students also may earn their Associate in Science, then transfer to institutions offering engineering or technical programs. Women who come to this college are encouraged to follow whatever academic path they choose, and our faculty and staff are dedicated to helping those students achieve success. Helping women create incredible futures is what everyone at Cottey is dedicated to achieving.

1 Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges, https://www.cic.edu/resources-research/charts-data/reports/strengthening-stem-pipeline-2014

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