Gossage Selected To BoardPublished: November 15, 2013
Lily Gossage, engineering educational research associate for the College of Engineering, was selected recently to serve a second two-year term on the Women in Engineering Proactive Network’s (WEPAN) national board of directors.
“I was very happy to be asked to serve another two-year term,” said Gossage, who joined the university in 1999 and who earned her B.S. in medical microbiology/chemistry from CSULB in 1995. “This board of directors helps to oversee more than 880 individual members representing about 200 engineering colleges throughout the U.S. This is a position that brings with it a hefty obligation, and I feel very privileged to be a part of this group.”
The WEPAN board of directors sets the organization’s strategic course and guides the group toward achieving its mission of attracting, retaining, educating and graduating a diverse engineering workforce. WEPAN is the nation’s leading organization and catalyst for transforming culture in engineering education to promote the success of diverse communities of women. “Our focus is on improving the system of engineering education—by creating understanding of issues relevant to attracting and retaining women students and working to transform our culture in engineering education to retain and graduate women,” she explained.
Her responsibilities as a WEPAN board member include serving as their director of diversity advancement.
“Women are underrepresented in engineering, but there are even fewer women of color in the field,” she said. “I want to help re-focus our efforts on achieving across-the-board parity for all racial-ethnic populations of women as well as those from other under-represented groups.”
Gossage’s personal connection to WEPAN came four years ago upon the submission of an abstract for a research paper describing a correlational study involving four years of survey data related to her “Women Engineers @ the Beach” program.
“I think my work with children from lower socio-economic communities and good relationships with a wide variety of schools throughout California made me a good candidate for initiatives that focused on diversity, and so I was asked to chair the Diversity Advancement Committee. At that time, this committee was newly formed, so in essence, I was the founding chair. In taking time to nurture relationships with women colleagues, from as far away as the University of Maine to our closer neighbors from Utah State University, I reached a deeper understanding of the breadth of the engineering gender problem and also what institutions throughout the nation were doing to solve it. The committee grew from a couple of members to becoming the largest of WEPAN’s committees; it includes engineering faculty, women-in-engineering program directors and industry representatives,” she said.
CSULB’s WEPAN connection is good for the campus because while there is an abundance of male undergraduates in the College of Engineering (more than 80 percent), only 18 percent are women. This figure falls below other engineering colleges that average about 25 percent in women pursuing undergraduate engineering degree programs. In the engineering industry women comprise no more than 10 percent of all practicing professionals.
“What I want to do is to help the field of engineering improve its productivity and competitiveness by capitalizing on the skills of competent and creative women. Women continue to be an untapped source of intellectual capital for the American work force,” Gossage said. “The WEPAN connection helps CSULB faculty and staff participate in conferences at reduced fees, have access to an extensive database of women-in-engineering scholarly research papers and presentations, and benefit from professional development opportunities via a compendium of webinars. It’s about changing the culture of engineering, and it’s not expected to happen overnight.”
She feels her resourcefulness, networking skills, and light-hearted humor all played a big part in her new distinction.
“When I was chair of the WEPAN Diversity Advancement Committee, I proposed to the board the idea of doing a workshop on the use of climate surveys as a tool for inculcating institutional diversity. Along with a WEPAN colleague (Renee Baker from Rochester Institute of Technology), I presented this workshop at the National Association for Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates conference. A year later, I was appointed to the WEPAN board of directors. Soon after, this same workshop was adapted into webinar format; I presented it along with another WEPAN colleague (Chris Anderson from Michigan Technological University).
Now in my second term, I will deliver another webinar, this time on culturally relevant pedagogy for STEM educators. My co-presenter is not a WEPAN member but rather, a University of Florida faculty member (Rose Pringle), whom I met during the summer when I presented at the STEM Think Tank Conference in Tennessee. There are advocates among us; people are genuinely interested in helping out when there is a common bond—one that goes beyond collegiality and forges friendships. I’ve made many, many friends,” she said.