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(August 9, 2001, Gazette)

Campus a WISE-r place to be

By Susen Johnson

The sun is shining, the hallways are less hectic, and there’s a 16-year old girl doing complex experiments in the chemistry lab. This isn’t unusual: this is the WISE summer employment program.

Now in its 12th successful year, WISE pairs Grade 11 girls from across the province with Memorial University supervisors for the purpose of acquiring paid experience and maximizing interest in science, technology, math and engineering. The program runs for eight weeks at both the St. John’s and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College campuses.

While the positions in St. John’s tend to focus on science, computing, medicine, and engineering, WISE students at Grenfell participate in mathematics, entomology, freshwater habitat, and fish biology.

Organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), and with major support from Human Resources Development Canada, Industry Canada’s PromoScience, and Memorial University, this year’s WISE program is also benefiting from support by Coflexip Stena Offshore, which enabled the group to bring the five Corner Brook-based students into St. John’s from July 25-29, to connect with their colleagues in the provincial capital for a full slate of activities including facility tours and job-sharing.

Hampden native Cathy Regular reported, “We’re visiting a couple of different jobs and places like the Institute for Marine Dynamics, so we get to experience things we might not had we stayed in Corner Brook, and find our way around this part of the university, too.”

Program coordinator Christina Freeborn, herself a former WISE student, says it’s important to bring the two groups together. “We try to ensure a level of consistency between how the program is delivered in both Corner Brook and St. John’s,” Ms. Freeborn said. “This way, although they’re working in one field, they gain exposure in others and realize the many different career opportunities available to them.”

Ms. Freeborn explained that the entire group would get together for a whale and bird watching tour, a barbecue, and a slumber party. “The program is also about fun and friendship, and we find the participants really value that aspect of it,” she said. “So introducing the two groups is about helping to create some cohesion, and letting them discover from one another different parts of the program.”

Gillams resident Amanda Parsons reported that she’s having a great time learning with WISE. “I enjoy the fact that I get to work in the field a lot,” Ms. Parsons said. “I get to map a river, and I work closely with survey teams, so it’s pretty fun.”

Stephanie Parsons and Allison Reid, both from Pasadena and both working in the Mathematics Department at Grenfell, said they expect the experience will stand them in good stead for the long-run. “I think it’ll help my problem-solving and math skills next year in high school,” Ms. Parsons said. “I want to become a physiotherapist,” Ms. Reid said, “so working with maths and sciences can help me get more experience in and understand better what I’m going to be doing.”

Likewise, Megin Marshall of Corner Brook said she applied to the program in order to explore her professional options. “ I want to be a nurse,” she said, “and I wanted to see what it was like and see if there’s anything else that I might be interested in, in the science field.”

Co-directors Carolyn J. Emerson and Dr. Faye Murrin note the success of the program in encouraging so many former WISE students to return to Memorial for their post-secondary education, and going on to contribute their talents in science and engineering careers.

This year’s WISE summer employment program runs until Aug. 17.

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