Dartmouth College: Breaking gender barriers with Thayer School of Engineering

In 2016, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire became the first American comprehensive university to graduate a majority female engineering undergraduate class. Before and after breaking that record, the university has successfully built a platform for female students to academically thrive.

Despite Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering being one of the oldest professional schools of its trade (est. 1867), the school adopts a contemporary learning style and maintains a tradition of unbiased education.

Breaking Gender Barriers

For decades, Dartmouth’s established school of engineering has exposed all students to an extensive range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, regardless of gender.

As the American Association of University Women (AAUW) highlights in its Why So Few? Report, “The number of women in science and engineering is growing, yet men continue to outnumber women, especially at the upper levels of these professions.”

The report also adds that, “By graduation, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering field, and in some, such as physics, engineering, and computer science, the difference is dramatic. Women’s representation in science and engineering declines further at the graduate level and yet again in the transition to the workplace.”

By acknowledging current research and understanding that the global underrepresentation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) cannot be ignored, Thayer School is paving the way for change.

Engineering majors Krystyna Miles ’16, left, and Shinri Kamei ’16 are members of Dartmouth’s first graduating engineering class that is over 50 percent female. (Photo by John Sherman)

Through hands-on initiatives such as the 25-year-old Women in Science Project (WISP) and the First-Year Research in Engineering program, the school offers part-time internships and supportive mentorship schemes. By allowing students to get a head start in engineering, Thayer helps them build strong self-confidence and an appreciation for what they can accomplish as engineers.

Alongside engineering majors, Dartmouth students may acquire exclusive entry into foundation-level courses. Through the ENGS 12 and the ENGS 21 courses, Thayer School gives students design thinking skills and experience in generating innovative solutions to real-life problems.

Why Women Love Dartmouth

As Thayer School works towards gender parity in engineering, there have been a lot of female graduates expressing gratitude for their Dartmouth experience. Proud of the university’s 2016 achievement, all students support Thayer’s progressive engineering education. Here’s why:

“There’s a fair number of female undergraduates at Thayer and I think this creates an environ­ment where female engineers, whether at the graduate or undergraduate level, are generally encouraged and celebrated. Everyone is very supportive,” says PhD Innovation Program Candidate, Margaret Wu.

“This is the first time in my life where I’ve felt that I am equal and have the same opportunities as
my male fellows. Coming from a developing country, I have experienced a larger gap between genders in most aspects of my life, but at Thayer there is no gap,” explains MEM Candidate, Karen Uchiyama.

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about gender issues because I don’t have to, I’m not outnumbered here. My courses have been gender-balanced and my lab is almost half women. I’ve been elected one of two female co-presidents of the Thayer Council and gotten training in business and entrepreneurship through the Innovation Program,” states PhD Innovation Program Candidate, Amogha Tadimety.

“Being a female graduate student at Thayer is absolutely awesome. We get to develop excellent leadership and communication skills-both personal and scientific-that contribute to a supportive and innovative work environment for all students. I feel privileged to be part of and contribute to such an exceptional and supportive community of women and men,” adds PhD Candidate, Carolyn Stwertka.

Your Future at Thayer

As nearly half of Dartmouth engineering majors are women, the college lives up to its reputation for being an all-inclusive and unbiased academic institution.

Stephanie Alden ’16, left, completed her senior thesis in biological chemistry under the guidance of Associate Professor of Chemistry Ekaterina Pletneva, right (Photo by Josh Renaud)

Once you join the Thayer School of Engineering, you’re signing up for tailor-made, interdisciplinary education. As the college doesn’t believe in boundaries, you can mix and merge the subject of engineering with other disciplines. For instance, the new Human-Centered Design Minor is a hybrid of studio art, social science, humanities, and engineering.

From faculty members to student teaching assistants, Thayer has built a diverse population of role models for all learners. As Associate Professor of Engineering Karl Griswold explains, “Engineering as a discipline, and in society, has for too long failed to effectively tap into the full potential of women as engineers and scientists. Therefore, I’m thrilled to be a part of an institution that’s experiencing this a shift in gender parity.”

Focused on your future, Thayer School of Engineering will motivate you to follow your passions from day one. Rather than just handing you a textbook and letting you walk along your study adventure alone, Thayer hands you the tools to boost your self-belief and teaches you to break down any barriers that stand in the way of you and your future success.

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