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Women's Caucus
Perspectives on Career and Gender (and some other othernesses)

The "Women's Seminar" (but open to all genders and gender identities)

This 1-credit class was developed as a graduate seminar entitled Women in Scientific Professions (FOR 797) in concert with the still running speaker series of the same name and launched in Spring 1999.

Due to the small number of women faculty at ESF at that time,  speakers collectively provided mentoring for the students who had little regular exposure to female role models. The professionals who presented at these series also helped those in all stages of their careers expand their vision of the roles of women in professional fields, which may have contributed to our now very different gender ratios among employees.

Today, the seminar provides a formal group mentoring experience to enrolled students, who still meet with speakers for Q&A about their career paths and their personal experience with the topics included in class.   Others on campus also benefit from informal mentoring opportunities through the visiting speakers, as they may meet with other classes, clubs, and individual undergraduate and graduate students seeking advice about careers they may never have pictured for themselves.

Instructors also welcome interested upper division undergraduate students (FOR 496). Participants discuss issues faced by professional women, such as mentoring and productivity, and attend presentations of the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series, generally offered during the scheduled class time, in lieu of that class.

Students also meet with the speakers, often for dinner the evening after their presentations in order for speakers to share their experiences in their work environment, and their perspectives of that environment over time. For this reason, we try to bring speakers from a variety of employer types, such as academic, NGO, state agencies, and industry. Previous campus wide-seminars have included: Dr. Donna Perison, International Paper, Jackson, MS "Meeting the Challenge of Change"; Ellen Ketterson, Indiana University, "Phenotypic Engineering: Using Hormones to Explore Adaptation and Constraint"; Dr. Shirley Malcom, AAAS, "Bringing Science to People and People to Science: New Faces --New Places"; and Sandra Brown, Winrock International, Corvallis, OR, "Kyoto, forests and Climate Change."

The course was listed as an exemplary teaching resource by Engineering Pathway and Content Matters, a collection of syllabi that "demonstrate how to combine diversity awareness with science and technology topics and content" previously compiled by the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL).

A particularly innovative aspect of this class is its cross-departmental origins in the team of Robin Hoffman (retired, 2022; Landscape Architecture), Ruth Yanai (Forest and Natural Resources Management) and Therese Donovan (formerly of the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, currently Assistant Unit Leader, USGS Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Research Associate Professor, University of Vermont). The current instructors are grateful for their groundwork, and for their notes, libraries, continued support, and their trust in us. We also benefit from cross-departmental support in terms of suggesting and sponsoring speakers.

The course evolves annually in response to "what topics should we add or combine?" and "which readings were the most useful?"

The speaker series stands alone, in the sense that anyone can attend any lecture without having listened to any other or without participation in the seminar class. However, the seminar class helps with some behind the scenes planning, and in turn, receives invaluable mentoring from each speaker.

We are always looking for good speakers, and share suggestions with other series coordinators, departments and student organizations. We also share the speakers themselves, by scheduling time for them meet with other students and faculty during their visits to campus. Please send speaker suggestions (name, affiliation, field of expertise, why she would be a good speaker, suggested cosponsors) to Heather Engelman,