By Nicole Capozziello
Published May 7, 2021
UB’s Women in Science and Engineering program, more widely known as WiSE, plays an important role in attracting women to STEM degree programs at the University at Buffalo, welcoming them into a community of support and growth that prepares them for their careers.
Now, the program will grow even stronger as Marina Blanton, a leader in promoting diversity in computer science, becomes its inaugural faculty director.
“I’m grateful for the leadership and insight that Marina brings to WiSE in the role of faculty director,” says Kemper Lewis, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Having a research-active faculty member in a leadership role within WiSE, who has first-hand experience in navigating STEM education, will allow us to further improve our programs to meet the needs of women students in STEM.”
As faculty director, Blanton will provide leadership related to the mission, vision and growth of the WiSE program. She will work with WiSE program coordinator Chelsea Montrois to lead the corporate partner and faculty steering committee, support big-picture planning for the future of the organization, and promote research involvement as a pathway for undergraduate students at UB.
“I am excited to join forces with Chelsea and other WiSE leadership to help grow WiSE and reach out to even more students,” says Blanton, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “With me joining the program and us looking to bring inspiring speakers and connect students to more alumni and other professionals in science and engineering disciplines, we hope to expose the students to more role models, provide stronger support, and attract more women to science and engineering at UB.”
WiSE has been boosting female students in STEM majors at UB since 2014. Originally launched with seed funding from the President’s Circle, WiSE is a partnership between the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The organization hosts more than 40 events a year to engage, educate and build community. Prior to COVID-19, these events included alumni-student dinners and the Coffee and Conversation series, where students took part in a discussion led by a female faculty member over coffee and doughnuts.
During the pandemic, WiSE has continued to provide students with opportunities for connection and professional development. They hold Career Perspectives Panels with their industry sponsors, as well as workshops on topics such as networking and interactive case study sessions examining gender bias.
“What I find particularly strong about WiSE’s current structure is that it benefits from consistent, quality programs that Chelsea has organized and uses the advisory board as a source of valuable ideas,” says Blanton. “And, it still offers the feel of a student organization with peer mentorship and other student-led activities.”
Since coming to UB in 2017, Blanton has been dedicated to supporting women in STEM at the university and beyond. In addition to past involvement with WiSE events, she is also the faculty advisor of DivTech, a student organization that works with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering to empower diversity in technology.
At the national level, Blanton works to improve women's representation in her field. Since 2017, she has served on the selection committee for Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security, which supports women who are passionate about security, by easing the financial burden of entering a field in which women's representation is low.