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Program Honors Clare Boothe Luce and Female Science Scholars









 

Program Honors Clare Boothe Luce and Female Science Scholars


Jane Zimmer Daniels, Ph.D., urges women to see the social good that can come from their involvement in the engineering field.

Photo by Michael Dames

By Janet Sassi

According to Jane Zimmer Daniels, Ph.D., Clare Boothe Luce left a bequest upon her death in 1987 that surprised just about every organization expecting to be “remembered” with an endowment—including the Republican Party and the Catholic Church.

The heiress to the Luce fortune left 95 percent of her assets to the Henry Luce Foundation to create the Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program for Women in Science and Engineering.

“Clare Boothe Luce began in the magazine field as a publisher and editor, and went on to be a playwright and an elected politician,” said Daniels, program director for the Henry Luce Foundation’s Higher Education Program and the CBL Program. “Each one of those fields saw a tremendous growth of women participants by the 1980s, but someone must have gotten her ear that this wasn’t happening in the
sciences and engineering.”

Since 1988, Fordham has been one of 13 designated institutions in the United States that receives regular funding from the CBL Program. To date, the program has provided more than $5 million to the University for full-tuition scholarships and fellowships, grants for research, and funded professorships for female scientists in the early stages of their careers.

On May 3, Daniels joined three Fordham Luce student scholars for a program on “Women in the Sciences and Engineering: Accomplishments of the Past, Visions of the Future,” which was held on the Rose Hill campus.

Daniels said that, thanks in part to the CBL Program, the last few decades have shown an increase in the number of degrees conferred upon women in the fields of biology, the physical sciences and mathematics.

“When you get to computer sciences and engineering, however, it is deplorable,” she said. In fact, the number of women graduating in computer sciences and engineering is at 19-20 percent and on the decline, she said.

Part of the reason, she said, is that there is a perception among women that computer sciences and engineering are not “feel good” sciences that work on behalf of humankind, like the areas of ecology or medicine.

On the institutional side, there are also more obstacles for all women academics with regard to mentoring, raising a family, gaining peer respect and even in salary negotiation, she said.

Daniels encouraged women in science to realize the detrimental effects of bias and not to be complicit in it. She also urged women to see engineering as a field that has plenty of potential to be used for good causes.

“There is still an awful lot of work that could be done to get a full complement of men and women of all races and ethnicities involved in the very best science and engineering, so that our solutions for the future and our new discoveries have everyone’s brain power,” she said.

Preceding the talk, three of Fordham’s Luce students presented their science projects. They were:

Megan Harries, now a rising senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, is spending her summer at the Boulder National Institute of Standards and Technology testing pollution in soil samples;

Julianne Troiano, a May graduate of Fordham College at Rose Hill, studied meteorite composition and co-published papers in the peer-reviewed journals Meteoritics & Planetary Science and Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta; and

Suzanne Macey (FCRH ’05), a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) student who is studying nest selection in bog turtles, a federally threatened species whose habitat is being destroyed.

“Our Clare Boothe Luce scholars are setting a high bar for women scientists,” said Nancy Busch, Ph.D., dean of GSAS and the University’s chief research officer.

 


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