Women’s empowerment group encourages student involvement

Haley Baker

Junior Brandy Grove is one of two female students in the undergraduate physics department. She is also the founder and director of the Kent State Scientista chapter, a student group with a mission to support and empower women in the sciences.

“I work with Dr. [Robin] Selinger in the Liquid Crystal Institute, and she went to Harvard [University],” Grove said. “The original Scientistas started at Harvard with these two sisters, and recently it’s spread into a national organization. So Dr. Selinger said ‘you should start a group here’ and encouraged me to take it on.”

Grove said with a few friends and Selinger as an advisor, she started the organization in fall 2013 with about 30 people at the first meeting.

“It’s dwindled unfortunately, but I think we have a solid group of about 15,” Grove said. “We’re always looking for more. We want to make sure that as we progress up the chain that there will be someone here to continue the group.”

Although Scientista is a women’s empowerment group, men are also welcome to come to meetings.

“The male adds a different perspective,” Grove said. “We are about empowering women, not beating down on men. Some people think we are super feminist and man bashing, but we don’t have very many female friends.”

Jessica Krieger, graduate biomedical sciences major, attended the first meeting and was excited about the formation of the group.

“When I found out there was going to be a female empowerment and supporting science group I thought that was sort of the missing link for a lot of girls like us,” Krieger said. “Because we have these different departmental groups like the chemistry club, the biology club and all those clubs, but there wasn’t one that was just for girls.  Even though it is getting better in term of females working there way up the ladder in a male dominated field, we still definitely need to support each other and encourage each other to get up on that ladder.”

Senior physics major Tessandra Sage joined Scientista when Grove asked her to be an officer for the group and currently serves as treasurer. She said what she enjoys most is the female interaction in a major that is male-dominated.

“It’s a really nice break,” Sage said. “I love the fact that they’re all women because every time I walk in [to a class], I see men all the time. Women understand each other and it’s nice to be able to connect with them.”

Sage said the group not only serves educational purposes but also serves as a support group.

“Women have different problems than men,” Sage said. “We’re more emotional sometimes, and we feel different things. We have other desires for the future. It’s nice to know people that are going through that.”

Krieger said the group has offered networking opportunities that have helped her in her professional development. She said was introduced to Rebecca Willits, Ph.D., at a Scientista meeting who connected her to the department of polymer science at the University of Akron, one of the best engineering graduate schools in the world according to the US News rankings.

“There is a cross registration agreement with Kent and Akron with my particular major, so I was able to take classes over there,” Krieger said. “That has helped me open up another networking door. So now I’m meeting all these people over there that I otherwise wouldn’t have met without meeting Dr. Willits at a meeting about being a female in the sciences.”

Krieger said what she enjoys most about meetings is the friendliness and comfortable environment that contrasts with her rigorous classwork. She also said she believes that the group will increase the number of women in the sciences.

“I think it’s just kind of a way to relax,” Krieger said. “I feel great every time I get to come to a meeting and talk to people and hang out. [Scientista] is about equality. But in order to get equality, we need to empower and support women.”

Contact Haley Baker ay [email protected].