Mentoring Emerging Leaders

I met Kathy Wagner ’68 [profiled in the fall issue] in the late ’70s at the Philadelphia Zoo while on an animal behavior class trip. We talked about my career aspirations, and the next day she gave me a lead that became my first job after Bucknell — executive director of the Wildlife Preservation Trust International. Her interest and concern for emerging leaders shaped the rest of my career in environment and foundation philanthropy, and I will always be grateful.

Jon Jensen M’80
Ithaca, N.Y.

Opposed to Animal Experiments

It made me sick at heart to read the story in your fall issue about neuroscience professor Judy Grisel (“Judy’s Journey”), specifically the animal experiments on drug addiction carried out as part of her Bucknell research and in her classes. I would like to know what efforts, if any, Bucknell is making to move beyond vivisection in the classroom and adopt alternative methods, such as computer modeling.

A 2017 Gallup poll showed that 49 percent of Americans believe all medical experiments on animals are morally wrong, and few people remain under the illusion that animal experimentation is usually any less than torture for the “research subjects” involved. As part of its educational mission, Bucknell owes it to its students to at least address the issue.

Alicia Mottur ’91
Brussels, Belgium

Redesign Is Outstanding

My son, John Chestnut ’14, and I both want to let you know that the redesign of the magazine is outstanding! I’ve spent my career as a finance exec in the media communications world and have had a secondary education in design and communications as a result. The format, layout of articles, quality and volume of content has greatly improved the magazine’s desirability and readability.

Before, I usually only read the class notes and took a quick glance at the feature articles and then tossed the magazine. I now read the issues cover to cover because the way the content is presented and edited pulls you in to engage with each piece. This Summer 2018 issue especially will also be a great recruiting tool, because it showcases the diversity of paths Bucknellians take — finance, craft beers, making MLB “dirt,” etc. Congrats to all of those who were involved in taking the magazine in this direction!

Colette Edmundowicz Chestnut ’81
Old Greenwich, Conn.

Alternative Opinions on Women as Engineers

I was extremely dismayed by the letter from Stephen Doty ’84, published in the Fall 2018 Bucknell Magazine regarding female engineers.

I believe it is erroneous and frankly insulting to insinuate that Bucknell’s commendable focus on encouraging women in engineering is “discrimination” and that the reason for a lack of women in engineering is due to “simple gender preferences or lack of aptitudes.”

There have been studies done proving that abilities are not hard-wired but based on the different ways that boys and girls are socialized. When we grow up expecting a boy to be good at math and science and a girl to be good at nurturing (think science-kit toys marketed to boys vs. baby dolls marketed to girls), it’s difficult to overcome that inherent bias. The only way to reverse this bias is to encourage women from the time they are young that math and science are just as much areas for women as they are for men. That starts with equal representation in the workforce and by extension, in the College of Engineering.

I applaud Bucknell for focusing on diversity in engineering and otherwise. Thank you for creating the B-WISE scholarship. Thank you for showing high-school girls that Bucknell is a place where women will find other women who share their interest in engineering — my chemical engineering class was about 33 percent women, and I am happy to see that number increasing. Thank you for employing professors who care about diversity and inclusion. Bucknell is making the changes that are needed in the greater society, and I am grateful and proud to be a Bucknellian.

Jackie Misero Lawrence ’10
Bath, Pa.

I’m writing in response to the fall 2018 letter to the editor by Stephen Doty ’84. I disagree with his letter on all points save one, that bridges do not care about the gender of engineers. Being inanimate objects, it is true bridges don’t “care” about anything. However, being the product of human construction for human use, people do care a great deal about bridges, communication systems, chemical plants, hip replacements and all manner of products of the engineered world. And as it is to all of our benefit to have these objects designed and built in a technically sound, innovative, ethical and sustainable manner, it is to all of our benefit to ensure that we, as a society, have access to the best engineering talent there is, regardless of whether that talent has been previously buried under systemic biases or not. The next great idea might be in the head of a teenager whose guidance counselor just told her that calculus isn’t really for “people like her.” It’s the responsibility of a great educational institution to help her, and those students in similar situations, realize their potential, not for “correctness’ ” sake, but for the sake of the bridges (and everything else) that we all count on every day.

Margot Vigeant
Professor of Chemical Engineering and Rooke Professor of Engineering

Stephen Doty 84’s championing of pure merit-based student selection is about as helpful toward Bucknell’s goal of continuing its tradition of excellence in its engineering program as a person knocking out a load-bearing wall and then complaining to the contractor about why the house isn’t finished.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, female engineers comprise 13 percent of those working in engineering, meaning 87 percent of those active in the profession are men. A recent study states that 40 percent of women who earn engineering degrees never enter the field or leave the profession within five years. The primary reason is the culture. Workplace sexism is first encountered by female engineering students in school. There are few female mentors to encourage new graduates. And seeing people who look like you unable to succeed in the corporate culture can be a huge discouragement.

The idea that female engineering students couldn’t keep up or would be subjected to undue pressure is ridiculous. Surviving four years in the College of Engineering is a trial no matter one’s gender, because engineering is a rigorous field. Female engineers have been under the types of pressures Mr. Doty describes since the moment we wanted Legos for our birthdays and were informed that those were boy toys and offered Barbies instead. We will continue to be under those types of pressures for our entire professional careers, unless things change.

Besides sending more female engineers into the workforce, we also need to prepare males to work alongside female engineers, creating better work environments for both genders. Bucknell is making a concentrated effort to do this. The College of Engineering acknowledges the problem and is taking concrete positive steps to make all of its engineering students better engineers and better people. Such efforts should be encouraged and honored.

Anjuli White ’04
Coraopolis, Pa.

In a special supplement to the Summer 2018 issue of Bucknell Magazine, the University proudly celebrated 125 years of engineering education, touting its plan to expand experiential learning, encourage students to create groundbreaking discoveries alongside teacher-scholar faculty, and further efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for the Bucknell engineering community. In his fall 2018 letter to Bucknell Magazine, Stephen Doty ’84 overlooked the first two efforts and mischaracterized the third, referring to diversity and inclusivity efforts as “the new euphemism for discrimination by gender and race.” Mr. Doty is wrong.

Engineers are data- driven. The data makes clear that of engineering and all science fields, the percentage of women workers is the lowest in engineering. (See the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation’s Science & Engineering Indicators 2018.) Likewise, the gender disparity among those with the highest degree in a science or engineering field is greatest in engineering. Certain underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities experience similar disparities. As the National Science Board has stated, “The lower participation [of women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities] signals a lack of diversity in the workplace, negatively impacting productivity and innovation.” Similarly, a lack of diversity on campuses negatively impacts the education of all students.

Mr. Doty states that efforts in support of diversity and inclusivity, specifically regarding women in engineering, result in “teachers [being] denied the best students and society [being] denied the best graduates.” As someone who has spent 40 years in engineering education, I can speak with some authority in stating that his assumptions are uninformed at best. Further, they are insulting to the students who work so hard to enter pre-eminent schools like Bucknell and the engineering field, to the faculty who are dedicated to the education of those students, and to the administrators who strive each day to admit the very best students to campuses around the country.

Women are underrepresented in engineering. As is the case with other professions dominated by men, as women sought to enter the field, they faced — and in some instances continue to face — discrimination, marginalization and bias from those who baselessly doubted, or perhaps felt threatened by, their abilities. I am proud of the progress Bucknell has made and of the work we continue to do to address these challenges, to the benefit of all students. To echo Dean of Engineering Pat Mather, engineering a better world comes from the collective efforts of people with diverse views, abilities and experiences. As highlighted in the special supplement, pioneers such as Katherine Owens Hayden ’23, the first woman to study engineering at Bucknell, and Janet Schneider Lahner ’77, M’86, the first woman to teach engineering at Bucknell, helped pave the institution’s way to becoming a leader in this space.

Doty concludes his letter by stating: “A bridge doesn’t care about the gender of its designer.” Agreed! So let’s remove the barriers to women and other underrepresented groups and continue the noble endeavor of building a better world — together.

John Bravman
Professor of Electrical Engineering
President, Bucknell University

Hats off to alumnus Stephen Doty ’84 for his superb rebuttal to the identity politics of Dean of Engineering Pat Mather! The dean’s thinking is a natural outgrowth of “the curriculum of the aggrieved” wherein students actually earn university credit for courses in race, class and gender studies — topics which can easily be read about and discussed on their own time. Rather than focus on the core of the arts, business and sciences, we now focus on every aspect of identity politics; the assumption seems to be that not only institutions but now curricular subjects should seek enrollments that mirror the demographics of the whole country — or the world for that matter. This is utter nonsense.

Colleges and universities now waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on deans or chancellors of diversity in pursuit of quotas or goals that are both irrational and contrived. Diversity happens all by itself: If one is interested, then qualify, apply, and pursue your own goal. 

In 2003 and again in 2005, excellent letters were printed from alumni dismayed by the gathering momentum of affirmative action and identity politics. The only part of the University that seems to ignore political correctness is the sports program, where only talent and effort are rewarded.  The Bison Club gets my vote!

Gary Layton M’67
Interlaken, N.J.