URI to host conference on diversifying science and engineering

KINGSTON, R.I. — March 30, 1999 — “Women and minorities are all but invisible in many college science and engineering curricula,” says Donna M. Hughes, who is working to change that. Hughes directs the Women’s Studies Science and Engineering Curriculum Project at the University of Rhode Island, which will hold a conference entitled “Diversifying the Culture and Curriculum of Science, Engineering and Women’s Studies” on April 6 and 7. The conference is free and open to the public. All presentations will be held in the Cherry Auditorium of the Chester H. Kirk Center for Advanced Technology on URI’s Kingston campus. “Typically in college courses, there is no mention made of the contributions of women inventors and scientists,” says Hughes, who is also URI’s Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies. URI was one of 10 universities and colleges selected in December 1996 by the Association of American Colleges to participate in the national curriculum project, “Women and Scientific Literacy—Building Two Way Streets.” This three-year initiative is funded by the National Science Foundation and seeks to strengthen the content and teaching methods of undergraduate science education for women. “The purpose of this conference is to help improve the climate for women and minorities in science and engineering by making institutional change,” Hughes says. “We hope to sensitize college students to institutional biases that they may not otherwise be aware of.” A dramatic example of this bias—and the subject of one of the conference speakers—is the Human Genome project, which seeks to map out the entire human gene pool. The primary sources of DNA collected and analyzed thus far are white people living in North America—even though the bulk of the world’s population consists of people of color living on other continents. Highlights of the conference include: April 6, 7 p.m. Angela Ginorio, director of the Northwest Center for Research on Women at the University of Washington in Seattle, will deliver the keynote address, “The Importance of Meaningful Communities to Women and Ethnic Minorities in Science and Engineering.” Ginorio has done significant research on girls and women in science and racial and ethnic identification. She is the author of Warming the Climate for Women in Academic Science. April 7 – 9 a.m. Judy Meuth, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and instructor in the Women’s Studies Program at Washington State University, will deliver a talk entitled “Science in Women’s Studies: Combining the Scientific Method, Laboratory Exercises and Feminist Epistemology.” April 7 – 10:45 a.m. Lynn Stein, associate professor in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, will lecture on “Cultural Revolutions in Computer Science.” April 7 – 1:30 p.m. Fatimah Jackson, professor of zoology and anthropology at the University of Maryland, will talk about “Changing the Scientific Paradigm: Lessons Learned from the Human Genome Project.” For more information call 874-5150. Program access will be provided for persons with disabilities. If you need disability assistance, or sign interpretation or have questions about accessibility, please call at least three days in advance. For More Information: Donna Hughes, (401) 874-5150 Ann MacDonald, (401) 874-2116