Women in STEM

Bold, beautiful illustrations of female figures who made history in STEM fields animate a 56-card series created by Winnie Karanja’s Represented Collective, a Madison media organization dedicated to showcasing the contributions by women and BIPoC to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The project is one outcome of a partnership with UW-Madison called Humanities Education for Anti-racism Literacy (HEAL) in the Sciences and Medicine, funded through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative.

Karanja, a fierce advocate for fueling young girls’ interest in science and technology, says the cards are intended to inspire the next generation. “They are also a way to pay tribute to those women whose work is fundamental to the technologies we now use every day,” she says.

BIPOC artists, including UW-Madison alum Jessalyn Mailoa (Art/Psychology ’21), were commissioned to create the cards, and a UW humanities PhD student, Sarah Gamalinda, researched the backgrounds of the women featured, in her role as Public Humanities Fellow with Represented Collective. An exhibit featuring enlarged prints ran from March through early April at Dane County Public Library locations.

Top Diplomat

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and a scholar of Africa who earned a master’s degree in political science here, will speak at UW-Madison’s spring commencement this year. Thomas-Greenfield credits her experience at UW-Madison with solidifying her desire to be a diplomat and the launch of her esteemed 35-year career in the United States Foreign Service. She has been much lauded for her humanitarian work—when the Ebola outbreak erupted, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield led an international response that effectively slowed and stopped the pandemic.

Picturing the Universe

Staff in UW–Madison’s Washburn Astronomical Laboratories custom-built a near-infrared spectrograph to ship to and install at the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), where astronomers will use it to learn more about galaxies and the types of stars they contain. A spectrograph, says senior scientist Marsha Wolf, is essentially “a big digital camera” with an extra optical component called a diffraction grating that splits light into colors. A blue color tells us that a galaxy contains populations of young stars, while a red color indicates that it contains older stars that are passively aging. SALT is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and among the largest telescopes in the world. It is funded by the South African government and a consortium of institutions worldwide, including UW-Madison.

Living History

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the American Indian Studies program at UW-Madison, founded as a result of student activism in 1972. As part of a yearlong celebration, faculty, staff and students affiliated with the program are collaborating on an oral history project that will greatly enhance UW’s collection of Native voices and perspectives.

In February, undergraduates Yelih Rodriguez (Oneida) and Willow Lovecky (Taos Pueblo) interviewed their first subject, Ada Deer (Menominee), who graduated from UW-Madison in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. They were joined by History PhD student Zada Ballew (Pokagon Potawatomi), whose historical research had just confirmed that Deer was the first Native American to receive an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison.

“She’d known she was the first Menominee but didn’t know she was the first Native American undergraduate,” says AIS-affiliated professor Kasey Keeler, one of the project leaders. “To hear those young women laughing and talking with this elder was so rewarding.”

Oral histories will be shared throughout the year, including at a fall event welcoming those with ties to American Indian Studies back to campus for a joyful reunion.

Have memories of AIS to share? Contact aisoralhistoryproject@letsci.wisc.edu.


Number of total unique students served through engagement with the SuccessWorks career services program, in 2020–21

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