Women in Science and Engineering supports, mentors female BU professionals

dr Rizalia Klausmeyer shares her experience of founding women in science and technology. Photo courtesy of Rizalia Klausmeyer.

By Caitlyn Meisner | Staff writer

Baylor’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) organization began another year on campus to support female faculty and mentor female graduate students.

dr Rizalia Klausmeyer, WISE Chair, said she founded the organization in 2013 after feeling lonely during the department’s transition at Baylor. She said she feels isolated from most of her colleagues at the Baylor Sciences Building.

“It just reminded me of when I was at Texas A&M [and] There was a branch of women in science and technology,” said Klausmeyer. “It just started when I started, when I started [at Texas A&M] So I thought, ‘Well, maybe we can have something here so we can all see each other.'”

Klausmeyer said the first meeting she held at BSB was eye-opening.

“It was like we were opening the doors to all the complaints and everything, but we didn’t think that was happening in all the different departments,” Klausmeyer said. “The nice part was, ‘Oh, that happened to me; I did this.’ It was a nice conversation.”

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According to Klausmeyer, WISE has started inviting administrators to have private talks with the women and allowing faculty to ask questions.

The frequency of lunches slowed, but they continued online during COVID-19, Klausmeyer said. She also said she likes meetings to be larger and include more faculty, although she recognizes how busy most people can be.

While WISE hasn’t brought about major changes, Klausmeyer said she commends the BU Women’s Colloquium for its achievements in maternity leave policies and efforts to create effective childcare options on campus.

Klausmeyer said that when she launched WISE, she had help from other female faculty and doctoral students. She said the women who helped her were committed to nurturing and supporting other women in the science department.

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Rameen Haroon, an Austin graduate student at the Department of Health, said she wants to join the powerful movement promoting WISE.

“In my culture, women don’t take the lead when it comes to careers, so I wanted to break that barrier,” Haroon said. “I’m always looking for ways to get girls interested in STEM. Baylor WISE was the perfect answer.”

Haroon said she enjoyed being involved with WISE to develop a different relationship with her professors and keep the support throughout graduate school.

“My professors are like mentors in a way,” Haroon said. “I go to them to prepare for an interview. If I’m stressed about something, I can just go to her office. It’s just a step away from being their equal.”

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Klausmeyer said she has learned a lot since founding WISE and connecting with the graduate students in science.

“Women still need to be told, ‘You’re good enough; you can do it,’” said Klausmeyer. “We all need each other. We can help each other and we will not lose ground by helping another person. I want the graduate students to know that our doors are always open [if] You have no problems.”

Haroon said WISE is important because it creates a space for women in STEM.

“Everyone is so ready to hear your path to becoming a STEM major,” Haroon said. “It is very rare to find a place like this [WISE] that will encourage that kind of environment.”

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