May 25, 2019  

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Gulf Coast ADVANCE Retreat Brings Together Women in STEM

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Nationally recognized speakers and round table discussions will highlight the 3rd Annual Gulf Coast ADVANCE faculty retreat set for Friday, Feb. 26 at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Cedar Point research facility in Ocean Springs.

The retreat, set for 1-7 p.m., brings together faculty researchers and graduate students to discuss issues impacting women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The participants will include representatives from four partner institutions that comprise the Gulf Coast ADVANCE program – Southern Miss, University of South Alabama, Bishop State Community College, and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

“In these retreats we hope to combat some of the isolation women in STEM experience,” said Dr. Julie Cwikla, Director of Creativity & Innovation in STEM, Office of Vice President for Research. “Oftentimes, there might be only one woman in a science department. The retreats, along with brown bag lectures and Scientist Spotlights, help our scientists participate in a bigger academic circle of women.”

Dr. Wendy Cieslak, recently retired Principal Program Director for Nuclear Weapons Science & Technology at Sandia National Laboratories, will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. At Sandia, Cieslak was responsible for the programmatic stewardship of the technical foundations necessary for the laboratory to perform its nuclear weapons mission today and into the future.

Prior to her tenure at Sandia, she was a Materials Science & Technology Division Leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She enjoyed a 30-year career at these laboratories.

Other guest speakers include: Dr. Jenna Carpenter, Dean of Engineering at Campbell College, and Dr. Jeanne Maes, Professor of Management at the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell School of Business.

Cwikla serves as the director of the Gulf Coast ADVANCE program which is funded by the National Science Foundation. The program’s partnership has been forged to:

  • Highlight, promote, and encourage the scientific research and accomplishments of the 110 STEM women faculty members across 4 institutions
  • Curb the isolation women experience in their work by gathering a critical mass of STEM women in the region to serve as a professional support and collaborative network. 
  • Transform the cultural and institutional landscapes so that work-life balance issues for women are explicitly addressed in policy and practice, shaping a healthier, more productive environment for all scientists. 

“We discuss and pursue opportunities for collaboration across the participating institutions and offer mentoring and support for junior faculty members,” said Cwikla. “In short, we provide a professional STEM network that women on the Gulf Coast would otherwise not have.”

To learn more about the Gulf Coast ADVANCE program, visit: