Oral History Interview with
Mary Ann Evans
May 2, 2005
MAE: A lot of schools now have women in engineering programs
and some schools have women in science and engineering
programs. And some of those schools had residence hall
programs, where they would have a wing, or a small hall or
something set aside for women majoring in science and
engineering. But the administration of our residence hall
program thought that in order to start a new program like that,
you had to have students that were already here ask for and
agree to live on it. And so we tried that for two or three
years, and of course couldn't find any students. And then one
year, apparently, the, it looked like the enrollment in the
residence halls was going down, whatever you call it. And so in
March, the end of March, their representative to our program
came over and said that we could have a floor for the next year.
TZB: What year was that? The nineties? Or earlier?
MAE: I would say it's probably early nineties. So we wrote a
letter and we sent it to all of the entering freshmen women in
the appropriate majors and within a week and a half, we had 79
students who said they wanted to live there. They didn't have
room. I think they made room for 60 or so.
MAE: So that program went from just having a hall, and
providing support for those students to becoming part of the
learning communities. And I just talked to *Karen Zunkel, the
Director of PWSE now and she said they're going to have 10 or 11
of them this next year. We had a close to a million dollars
National Science Foundaton grant one time, for three years, and
it was an outreach program. And we worked with Girl Scouts. It
was complicated. I think we did some research, and I don't
remember all the details of it. We, I thought of something else
that we did, and now I can't remember. But we, until we started
the residence hall program, we had much better success with the
college programs in trying to work with students on campus.
Because they're all affiliated with departments and colleges and
they really couldn't see any reason why they should be working
with us. The politics got better. Engineering was angry at us
for a long time. Besides Dr. McCandless making them rehire
Myrna, he forced them to give us space.
TZB: Which they did not like?
MAE: They didn't like that. So eventually they kicked us out.
TZB: Were you in Marston?
TZB: How did you relate to the SWE [Society of Women
MAE: We, SWE had worked under Myrna Wigham, and at the time
when, and so she coordinated SWE. At the time when she left the
program, the Dean took it away from us.
TZB: So PWSE kind of almost oversaw the SWE
chapter for awhile...
MAE: For awhile, and he took it away from us. And we
discovered later, that the students didn't understand, they
thought we didn't want them. Because it was never explained to
them what was going on. So there was a lot of tension between
us and some people in Engineering. And I think that I was seen
as a troublemaker.
MAE: And I always enjoyed that role. (Laughs).
TZB: I know. Another major program component are your career
conferences and aren't those usually 4th through 6th
MAE: There are two sets. One is for elementary and middle
school girls, I think 6th through 9th
grade is one. And then the other one is from 9th
through 12th grade.
TZB: How did you determine those age groups?
MAE: I think in the beginning, we didn't have, we just said
from 6th grade on because we thought that that's
about the time when girls start opting, deciding they don't like
math and science, so we wanted to make sure that they stayed
in. But then it was clear that the younger girls had different
interests than the older girls. Younger girls want hands on
stuff. Older girls are really making decisions about
MAE: College majors.
TZB: So that's why you decided to split them?
MAE: We had to split them because they were too big.
TZB: Mm-hmm. And those drew students from all over Iowa?
MAE: Yeah. Some people would get on a bus at four o'clock in
the morning to get here.
TZB: So what do you, when you think of PW, your time with
PWSE, what really strikes you as the most important thing you
were able to accomplish.
MAE: Well, I think that we did a good job, over a period of
time, of pointing out to administrators and faculty that they
have, if they want women to stay, particularly in engineering,
they have to pay some special attention. And that they can't
just treat those students like one of the guys and always expect
them to be happy. And I don't think people are angry about the
program any more.