Mary Bowden Appointed Acting Director of WIE

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“More than anything, the existence of this program is recognition that we want women in engineering and that there is no question they can do it.”
— Mary Bowden

As of July 24, 2017, Visiting Assistant Professor Mary Bowden became acting director of the Clark School’s Women in Engineering (WIE) program, leading the program while WIE Director Paige Smith is on leave serving at the National Science Foundation as the director of the diversity program Broadening Participation in Engineering.

Fostering a sense of community and system of support, WIE’s core purpose is to produce open-minded and globally-conscious engineers seeking to create positive change. To do so, WIE provides resources to increase the number of women enrolling in engineering, and—most importantly—increase the number of female engineers who make it to commencement.

“The focus of the WIE,” explains Bowden, “is to bring women in who want to be engineers, give them all possible resources, facilitate their success, and help them through to graduation.”

One such resource is Flexus: The Dr. Marilyn Berman Pollans Women in Engineering Living & Learning Community, a community designed to support women engineering students. As members of the program, students take the same courses, study the same subjects, and live together in a designated residence hall.

WIE also holds weekly one-credit seminars, one of which Bowden will be teaching in the fall, that go beyond the academics of engineering by teaching about campus resources, ethics, diversity inclusion, resume building, and job searching.

One of Bowden's major goals as acting director, in addition to remaining an effective educator while taking on the new position, is to increase the retention rate of female students returning to the engineering program after their first semesters.

“We want our female students to succeed,” she said, “and to succeed at a higher rate.”

Bowden recalls the women who influenced her own path to engineering, beginning with her college roommate. Bowden, a math major at the time, remembers flipping through her roommate’s engineering textbooks, amazed at the practicality and applications-oriented examples she found within. Hooked, she began taking engineering classes.

Fast forward several years: Bowden was working as an engineer on systems for the space station under the direction of another female engineer. A source of guidance, strong communication, and sharp intellect, Bowden’s boss had a great impact on her view of the capability of women in the working world.

Since, Bowden herself has become a statement to the potential of female engineers. Now a teacher, she reminds her students that she put a piece of still-functioning hardware into space more than 20 years ago. Passing on her advice to prospective female engineers, Bowden says, “Number one, be confident that you can do it. Number two, be aware that it’s a lot of hard work and it’s tremendously rewarding.”

Published August 18, 2017