USM to Host Inaugural Women in Science and Engineering Conference

September 13, 2017

The University of Southern Mississippi will host the First Annual Women in Science and Engineering Conference on Thursday, Sept. 21 at the Thad Cochran Center on the Hattiesburg campus.


The conference, titled, “Rise with WISE: The Power of You!” is open to high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. The conference’s objective is to spread the word to all females in a STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) discipline. However, all majors are welcome to attend the free conference.


Cassandra Reese, a graduate student under Dr. Derek Patton in USM’s School of Polymer Science and Engineering, is helping coordinate the inaugural event. Reese notes that WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) is a campus-wide organization aimed at increasing opportunities for development, networking, mentoring, and academic support for next generation female scientists in STEM fields.


“We hope this conference serves as a catalyst to inspire, encourage, and connect women in STEM,” said Reese. “It’s crucial to create opportunities, develop a support system, and engage a network of people who have experienced industrial and academic challenges.”

Acclaimed entrepreneur Jessica Williams will serve as the conference’s keynote speaker. Williams is currently co-facilitator of 1871’s WiSTEM – a 12-week program for women entrepreneurs designed to provide access to capital, community and technology resources.


The conference will feature professional sessions with guest speakers in the morning and afternoon. Dr. Julie Cwikla, director of Creativity & Innovation in STEM at USM, will lead one of the sessions focusing on Work/Life. She plans to share a bit of what’s worked for her, along with some of the harder lessons she learned while developing a career.


“Women are often concerned and worried about juggling an intellectual career and having a family. And understandably, scholars typically finish graduate programs in their late 20s, placing them on the tenure track in their 30s,” said Cwikla. “This essentially covers the child bearing years for women. It’s challenging, but not impossible to become a full professor, enjoy an intellectual life, and raise a healthy family.”

Check-in and breakfast will be held from 8:45 a.m. – 9:a.m. with an etiquette luncheon set for 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The conference will conclude at 4 p.m. To register: For more information: