Starting in 1996, women faculty in the senate began to notice the underrepresentation of women in STEM. In 1997 women were 9% of the science faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and 6% of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Faculty. That fall, then Earth Sciences Chair Cathryn Newton, along with the Directors of Women’s Studies, Diane Murphy and Priti Ramamurthy, first submitted a proposal for a Women in Science and Engineering program at Syracuse University. Although the proposal was not funded, they continued to work on the program over the next year. In fall 1997, the Senate Committee on Women’s Concerns recognized the scarcity of women faculty in the sciences, mathematics and engineering. Deans Bogucz and Jensen appointed Drs. Shobha Bhatia and Cathryn Newton as co-facilitators of the WiSE project.
During the next year, the two women researched similar programs at other universities and met with several female faculty members to begin forming the program.
Out of their assessment, personal efforts and advocacy, WiSE was founded in 1999 with 3 key goals – increase representation and retention, highlight women scholars through a lecture series and development of advising/mentoring programs. Founded as an interdisciplinary organization with a strong grass-roots constituency in women faculty in STEM, the program has grown considerably over the years. It distinguishing feature is that it is faculty led and driven. In 2010, WiSE successfully achieved for the campus the award of a $3.4 million NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation collaborative agreement commonly called SU ADVANCE. WiSE provided social capital and active support for SU ADVANCE and its many innovative programs. WiSE is enthusiastic about carrying on many of these initiatives as the ADVANCE grant comes to a successful end.