Women in Science and Engineering supports, mentors female BU professionals

Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer shares her experience starting Women in Science and Engineering. Photo courtesy of Rizalia Klausmeyer.

By Caitlyn Meisner | Staff Writer

Baylor’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) organization began another year on campus supporting female faculty and mentoring graduate students.

Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, WISE chair, said she started the organization in 2013 after she felt lonely at Baylor during department transition periods. She said she felt isolated from most of her colleagues located in the Baylor Sciences Building.

“It just reminded me when I was at Texas A&M [and] there was a branch of women in science and engineering,” Klausmeyer said. “It just got started when I was starting when I was [at Texas A&M] so I thought, ‘Well, maybe we can have something here, so that way we can all see each other.'”

Klausmeyer said the first meeting she held in the BSB was eye-opening.

“It was like opening the doors to all the complaints and everything to us, but we didn’t think it was happening across all different departments,” Klausmeyer said. “The beautiful part was the, ‘Oh, this happened to me; this is what I did.’ It was a beautiful conversation.”

According to Klausmeyer, WISE started inviting administrators to have private conversations with the women and allow faculty to ask questions.

The frequency of the luncheons slowed, but they continued online during COVID-19, Klausmeyer said. She also said she does like when meetings are bigger and include more faculty, although she recognizes how busy most people can be.

While large changes haven’t come out of WISE, Klausmeyer said she commends the BU Women’s Colloquium for its achievements in the parental leave policy and efforts to create effective child care options on campus.

Klausmeyer said when she kickstarted the creation of WISE, she had help along the way from other female faculty and graduate students. She said the women who helped her are committed to promoting and supporting other women in the science department.

Rameen Haroon, Austin master’s student in the public health department, said she wanted to join the powerful movement that WISE promotes.

“In my culture, women don’t take the lead career-wise, so I wanted to break that barrier,” Haroon said. “I’m always looking for ways to get girls excited about STEM. Baylor WISE was the perfect answer.”

Haroon said she has liked being involved with WISE to gain a different relationship with her professors and maintain support throughout graduate school.

“My professors, in a way, are like mentors,” Haroon said. “I go to them for interview prep. If I’m stressed about something, I can just walk into their office. It’s one step away from being their peers.”

Klausmeyer said she has learned a lot since starting WISE and connecting with the graduate students in the sciences.

“Females still need to be told, ‘You’re good enough; you can do this,'” Klausmeyer said. “We all need each other. We can help each other, and we’re not going to lose any ground by helping another person. I want the graduate students to know that our doors are always open [if] they have any problems.”

Haroon said WISE is important because it creates a space for women in STEM.

“Everybody’s so willing to hear your journey to become a STEM major,” Haroon said. “It’s very rare to find a place like [WISE] that will foster that kind of environment.”