Mount Mary University looks to break down barriers in male-dominated STEM fields

Posted at 7:06 PM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-25 20:06:23-04

A local all women's university is adding to its Science, Technology, Engineer and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum by offering a new science major. 

Mount Mary University announced its new Food Science major in addition to a $1 million renovated laboratory. 

"This is an attraction to people," Anne Vravick, an instructor of food science said. "Even if they come here with the idea of food science and decide they want to be in another specialty area, there is easy transition between these because this is a good foundational scientific degree."

Vravick says there is a need in the industry and they're hoping to help fill it with solid, well-paying jobs. 

"There is a shortage of food scientists right now and the industry is working hard to replace those that have been leaving over the years," Vravick said. "The average salary is anywhere from $55,000-$65,000 right out of college for these students. It's a tremendous opportunity."

Vravick says STEM fields are typically a male dominated industry. So not only is the university looking to get students into well-paying jobs out of college but also, breaking down barriers along the way. And they can learn the field in an area where they feel comfortable. 

"They develop confidence being amongst their peers and gender," Vravick said. "It brings out a willingness to participate and take risks and do things they might be afraid to do in other situations. This environment fosters a creativity in women and an idea of getting involved and being a part of new ideas and new science. A difficult science as well."

The students at Mount Mary aren't letting the old societal norms keep them from doing what they love.

"It's really nothing to be intimidated by," Emily Boutcher, a senior majoring in food science said. "Anyone can do it. If you enjoy cooking, food and science, I feel like food science is a really great field to get into."

"It's the stereotype," Stephanie Lopez, a junior majoring in food science said. "It always has been men so women feel less inclined to into [STEM] fields sometimes. I think that's starting to change more now. If it's something you're passionate about, go for it because in the long run, it will be so worth it to do what you really love instead of what could be easier or more acceptable to other people."

There are a number of fields they can get into as well. Vravick says it can be in laboratories like they have at Mount Mary, research and development or even quality control for the food industry. To her, it's a multi-million dollar industry just waiting for more people to enter. 

"The students have a tremendous advantage here in Milwaukee because, not only of all teh agriculture and companies here and our vicinity to the Midwestern part of the United States, but they're going to come out of this program with a fabulous opportunity to be able to work in these companies within the Milwaukee area, as well as around the globe," Vravick said.