WISER began in the mid-1990s when several science faculty were involved with a university committee that explored the undergraduate experience at Case Western Reserve University. Their explorations led them to encounter women students who had a range of experiences; some found various barriers to their success, including lack of confidence, gender-related doubts about their abilities expressed by classmates and professors, and the isolating experience of being in a minority.
The program was begun by Heather Morrison, Professor of Astronomy, Beverly Saylor, Associate Professor of Geology, and Kath Bogie, Sr. Research Associate, Orthopaedics, who decided to help young women students in the sciences and engineering to succeed.
WISER met with enthusiastic participation from women students. Programs included the one credit-hour class, “On Being a Scientist”, that taught students how to talk comfortably about science, a student peer mentoring program, workshops providing role models, career and practical advice, and social events. Speakers were brought in and students were also given the opportunity to interact with women scientists at CWRU.
The WISER Lounge was established in Sears Hall for students in WISER to use for meetings, studying, or just hanging out. As WISER progressed, a Student core was started by students. This provided a formal body of leadership for the students in the program. These students gave feedback to coordinators and helped to plan programs.
In the fall of 2006, WISER was disbanded as the faculty were unable to continue in the face of research and other university demands. In the fall of 2007, the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women re-inaugurated the program under the leadership of Elizabeth Leirman, a half-time graduate assistant. The WISER program was fully funded in the fall of 2008 and headed by Associate Director Mary Rouse, in the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women.
The program has grown significantly during the 2008-2009 academic year to include 40 pairs in the Peer Mentoring Program, 15 pairs in the Professional Mentoring program, the election of student officers, the formation of student committees (Academic, Service, Social and Marketing) and the sponsorship of several campus-wide events including the Egg Drop Contest during National Engineers Week. In the coming year, WISER is looking to further develop its networking opportunities, K-12 community service projects and membership involvement.