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Women in STEM at Mount Union

April 18, 2019

By: Mallory Glenn '19

Mount Union offers a variety of majors in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that prove to contain rigorous coursework and create knowledgeable, career-ready graduates. The professors in the STEM areas play a vital role in educating their students as well as leading by example.

Stacey Cederbloom ’97, instructor of mathematics, says that her highest work-related achievement is the professional development she has provided for students studying to be math teachers. She began a professional learning community for prepre-service teachers called “I Teach Students Math," created the curriculum for MTH 395, The Teaching of Mathematics, and has taken three groups of students to professional conferences/workshops.

Cederbloom explained that Dr. Sherri Brugh, professor of mathematics, is one of her biggest role models and mentors. Brugh taught Cederbloom, by example, what it means to truly care about a student’s learning and how to go above and beyond as a professor.

“Dr. Brugh was my Abstract Algebra professor when I was a student at Mount, and one day I was in her office when her child needed a diaper change as we were working,” said Cederbloom. “Instead of shooing me out of her office, she continued with her explanation as she changed her daughter’s diaper. She never skipped a beat, and we kept right on discussing the math!”

Cederbloom succinctly sums up her advice to women in STEM saying, “Never let anyone look down on you because you’re a woman in a STEM career. Roll up your sleeves and show them what you’ve got!”

Dr. Sheryl (Ames ’90) Mason, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Mount Union in 1990 and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 1994. Mason explains that her interdisciplinary educational background led her on a career path of teaching a large range of courses in the fields of chemistry and biology.

Dr. Faye Hollaway, a now-retired chemistry professor, is one of Mason’s role models. Hollaway was one of the only female professors on campus during Mason’s tenure as a student and served as another great example of a woman who could manage both a family and a career. Today, Hollaway and Mason are good friends and colleagues.

“I still learn from her in every conversation that we hold,” said Mason. “She knows that a woman can be just as capable as a man in the work force, and she has lived that.”

Mason also said that she is especially proud to be a part of Mount’s Department of Chemistry, which has an equal ratio of male-to-female professors. She believes that it is valuable for students to see professors with such variety of personal backgrounds—married, single, children, no children, etc.—working together and supporting one another. 

Dr. Shehla Arif, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, also attained an international education, earning her undergraduate degree in Pakistan, pursing graduate study in France and the U.S., a Ph.D. in the U.S., and a post-doc experience in Canada. Because of the international nature of her experiences, Arif deeply values diversity. Arif is involved in conversations regarding orienting the field of engineering toward social justice and peace, and she is also the lead editor of the International Journal of Engineering Social Justice and Peace.

“An engineering program rooted in a liberal arts education creates possibilities for developing an engineering curriculum that focuses on the whole person and promotes students to use engineering to make life better for all people,” said Arif. “This aligns with Mount Union’s mission of preparing individuals for fulfilling lives, meaningful work, and responsible citizenship.” 

“Having more women and people of minoritized identities in STEM fields allows for multiplicity of perspectives in the design processes,” said Arif. “It also allows for broader application of benefits emerging from STEM to marginalized communities.” 

Arif also explained that, because there are smaller numbers of women in STEM careers, it is important for women to network and build support systems for themselves. She encourages women to voice their viewpoints, even if their perspectives are different from the mainstream discourse. Ultimately, she advises women to build confidence and nourish independent thinking within themselves.