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January 14, 2008

Helping Women Underrepresented in Math and Science Achieve Success

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Under a new initiative called Achieving Excellence in Mathematics, Engineering and Sciences (AEMES), Smith College is reaching out to students who have expressed interest in those fields to increase their chances of success.

AEMES targets first- and second-year students who are members of groups traditionally underrepresented in those disciplines, including first-generation college students (those for whom neither parent has earned a bachelor’s degree). This year, 20 first-year students are participating with the expectation that 20 more will be selected next year.

Initially identified by admission officers, the AEMES scholars remain in the program for the first two years of their college experience. During those years, the scholars are matched with both a faculty member and an upper-class peer to answer questions about coursework and otherwise mentor them about their academic decisions. It is expected that current AEMES scholars will become future AEMES peer mentors.

“Our admission office does an impressive job identifying diverse women with the potential to succeed at Smith,” says Laura Katz, associate professor of biological sciences, who is leading the program with colleague Katherine Queeney, associate professor of chemistry. “While these women have the capabilities to succeed, they also come from increasingly diverse situations,” Katz continues. “I had a student who came from a high school that had no laboratories because of lack of funds. AEMES addresses that diversity of experience.”

Participants also enroll in a science-based pre-orientation program; receive a $1,700 stipend for performing research with a faculty mentor; and participate in a course at Smith’s Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching and Learning, that is designed to refine the academic skills essential for success in college courses and foster self-reflection.

“I hope the program will help the scholars see right away that succeeding in math, sciences and engineering at Smith and beyond is not something you do in isolation,” says Queeney. “Students who are successful are good at identifying what resources they need to succeed and at tracking them down.”

The idea for the pilot program came out of a meeting of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) about increasing diversity in the sciences, which was attended by several Smith faculty members. Smith recently applied to HHMI for four years of funding support for the program.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. By linking the power of the liberal arts to excellence in research and scholarship, Smith is developing leaders for society’s challenges. Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country, enrolling 2,800 students from nearly every state and 61 other countries.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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