Dr. Preethi Radhakrishnan, an assistant professor of biology at LaGuardia Community College, has been recognized for her own efforts to this end with a $30,000 grant from the Elsevier Foundation to develop The City University of New York’s (CUNY) unique program designed to encourage women to pursue STEM careers.
Radhakrishnan has been teaching at LaGuardia for two years and believes that with the grant, she can attract female students towards pursuing STEM careers by peaking their interest early in their college careers.
“The first two years of a college career are considered key predictors of whether students will pursue a major in STEM fields,” Radhakrishnan said. “This grant will increase women entering STEM fields, gaining research experience and in successfully graduating with a STEM degree in hand.”
Planned programmings that will be made possible by the grant include workshops, research internships, scholarships and childcare assistance, all of which will be available to all CUNY community college students. There is also a provision for paid on- and off-campus research internships in partnership with Empire State College.
A push to focus on STEM comes at a crucial time for CUNY, which is seeing many of its required science classes compacted to fit into the Pathways initiative recently implemented by the 17-campus public university system, within which the gender gap of those pursuing STEM degrees is even wider than the national average.
Radhakrishnan believes that with the grant money, she can foster an environment that will work to upend stereotypes and fight the stigma is attached to young women who are interested in pursuing science and math careers.
“Within two-year colleges in particular, the shortage of affordable child care and the gender stereotypes that discourage women from pursuing careers in math, and science, are two of the biggest barriers holding women back in college,” she said.