“Rutgers itself is increasingly self conscious about being an open and inclusive environment for women in STEM.”
Jacquelyn Litt PhD., is the Dean of Douglass Residential College and Campus and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Dean Litt has a distinguished record of scholarship, teaching, and administrative service that focuses on women’s issues.
History of Douglass College.
Jacquelyn: “Douglass started in 1918 as the New Jersey College for Women. It was the first opportunity for women in the state to have a public university education. It was founded by the New Jersey Federation Women’s Clubs. At this point in the country, women’s clubs were active all around the country to support all kinds of causes in the service of social good.”
Jacquelyn: “The New Jersey Women’s Club decided women in New Jersey deserve the right to an education, a public education, and a true liberal arts education. So they enlisted Mabel Smith Douglass to lead a fundraising and marketing campaign.”
Jacquelyn: “So they built this college, it started with a dozen students and quickly, within 10 years or maybe less than that, the enrollment was up to 1,000. It was clear demand. In 1955 the college was renamed Douglas College in honor of the founder Mabel Smith Douglass, who also was the first dean.”
Jacquelyn: “The latest change came in 2007, when the colleges at Rutgers were consolidated. Douglass was the only one that was left standing because of the continuing commitment to women’s education by Rutgers University.”
The Douglass Project for Women in STEM.
Jacquelyn: “We were the first in the country in 1986 to establish this highly focused program to advance women in the sciences. The problem back then continues to be the problem to some extent now. Which is the under-representation of women in many STEM fields.”
Jacquelyn: “There are factors that contribute to the attrition rate. The lack of a feeling of belonging in a classroom, the lack of women faculty and role models. The lack of a highly conscious focus on the social good of science. These are all factors and simple bias against women and people of color. These are all factors that make it a very chilly climate. What we’re trying to do is, ‘all right. Let’s try to give you the skills and the resources to manage when that happens.”
Jacquelyn: “Rutgers itself is increasingly self conscious about being an open and inclusive environment for women in STEM. So you work on both ends. You work on institutional change in culture. It has been tremendous. We have major programs right now in engineering and computer science and these are two fields where women are particularly underrepresented.”
Living Learning Communities.
Jacquelyn: “We also have four Living Learning Communities at Douglass. These are communities where students live together in a dorm and they’ll all be in the same course. In the case of Douglass, let’s say they take an engineering course, and a course a Douglass. So they’re basically in two courses together. “
Jacquelyn: “They meet all the faculty, all the women faculty in the fields. They go on field trips and they do site visits. They finish their first year, then they go on to mentoring the underclassmen. And it works. In engineering, it’s almost 100% graduation rate. “
Jacquelyn: “It’s called BOLD, it stands for Building Opportunities for Leadership Development. We developed a program called the Reilly Program, for career development where we place students in short term internships,called externships.”
Jacquelyn: “We train them over a series of four seminars. We’re moving into now 15 hours of training about how to maximize professional relationships, how to work in a diverse working environment, and how to get an internship. That’s one major program that we offer for hundreds of students. We have leadership training programs and we have a program where students in their first year fill out their plan for themselves.”