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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 1, 2004

WISE Reports High Retention Rate For Class Of 2004 Women

The University of Iowa Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program recently announced that 64 percent of first-year women who entered the undergraduate peer-mentoring program in the fall of 2000 completed science or engineering degrees in May 2004.

Betsy Riesz, coordinator of the WISE Student to Student Support in Science (SSSS) mentoring program, said that these results exceed national trends, in which the persistence of women undergraduates in science and engineering varies from 30 to 46 percent. The persistence rate for men in these fields ranges from 39 to 61 percent.

Among students who began their course of study in 2000 at the University of Iowa intending to major in science, 57 percent remained in science and 2 percent switched to engineering. Among mentees entering as engineering students, 69 percent graduated in engineering and an additional 7 percent graduated with a science major.

Each year, approximately 100 upper level students provide academic and social support for 100 incoming students. Over the nine years of the mentoring program, the average graduation rate in science and engineering among the first five classes of WISE mentees has been 71 percent.

Riesz noted that although retention rates may be higher than would be expected due to student self-selection for the mentoring program, it is also important to note that participation is open to any interested incoming first-year woman regardless of grade-point average or standardized test scores.

The SSSS program combines workshops and small group meetings to assist first-year students in accessing information and familiarizing them with campus support services. Under the guidance of their mentors, usually juniors or seniors in the same majors, first-year students also learn about campus and community organizations, develop useful networks based on academic and social interests and are exposed to students from across the spectrum of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

Students in the program have the opportunity to see the application of their coursework to future careers through contact with professional women in sponsoring corporations. Sponsors for 2004-2005 include: Accenture; Alcoa, Inc.; Caterpillar Foundation; Cook, Inc., John Deere Foundation; Fisher Controls International, Inc.; Maytag Corporation Foundation; Pioneer Hi-Bred International; Rockwell Collins; and Walgreen's.

The WISE program exists to enhance opportunities for women students, staff and faculty to advance in STEM majors and careers. For further information, contact Chris Brus, director, at 335-3530 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,