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Sesquicentennial celebration

History of Iowa State: In Their Own Words

Sponsored by the University Archives, Iowa State University Library

Copyright 2006

 

Interview Transcript Selections

 

Oral History Interview with Mary Ann Evans

May 2, 2005

Interviewer:  Tanya Zanish-Belcher

 

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.

 

TZB:    Mm-hmm. 

 

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?

 

MAE:   Yeah.

 

TZB:    How did you relate to the SWE [Society of Women Engineers] chapter?

 

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.

 

TZB:    Mm-hmm.

 

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 grade?

 

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

 

TZB:    Careers.

 

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.