Montana State University

New on-campus living option offered to women engineers and scientists

October 7, 2008 -- By Michael Becker, MSU News Service

Nicole Rediske celebrates after Bonnie Snow, left, and Siera Mattix correctly answer a flash card question during a study group session on the Women in Science and Engineering floor in Hannon Hall. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN - This past summer, when incoming freshman Bonnie Snow picked up her Montana State University housing application, her eye was immediately drawn to the university's newest housing option.

That option was a residence hall with an academic themed floor just for women studying science and engineering. Snow, a chemical engineering major, signed up for the floor immediately.

"I thought it would be great because it's a ready-made study group," said Snow, a native of Sandpoint, Idaho.

The floor Snow chose is MSU's new Women in Science and Engineering floor, located in all-female Hannon Hall. The WISE floor is the result of a partnership between the College of Engineering and the Department of Residence Life.

Jeff Bondy, associate director of residence life, said academic theme floors help students by introducing them to others who are taking the same sorts of classes and dealing with the same kinds of homework. The floors also encourage the students to make new friends and build an academic support network, Bondy said.

"It's really an enrichment program for the residents," Bondy said. "This is the right thing for students."

MSU's residence hall system already has academic theme floors for business, University Studies, arts and architecture and nursing spread around campus. All-male Langford Hall also has an engineering-specific floor.

Students like Snow can choose whether they want to live on the WISE floor when first applying for university housing. A total of 26 women, almost all studying some form of science or engineering, now live on the floor.

Students on the WISE floor have access to a tutoring program and study sessions held on the floor, said Heidi Sherick, the assistant dean for undergraduate programs and diversity in the College of Engineering.

WISE students will also attend events coordinated by the college and the residence life department that will introduce the them to women with successful careers in science and engineering. These events will help the students find positive female role models, Sherick said.

Sherick, who helps recruit women to engineering departments on campus, said prospective female engineering students would often ask whether the university has such theme floors before coming to MSU. Now the answer to that question is "yes."

The theme floor will help build a community, Sherick said, because many students in scientific and engineering majors take common classes during their first year on campus. And students who are more comfortable in their majors tend to stay at MSU longer and have a better chance of graduating, she said.

On top of that, the floor will help female students meet some of the other women who are studying engineering. In a college that is mostly male, connections like that can sometimes be few and far between, Sherick said.

"It's good for these women to see that there are other women like them walking the path," said Sherick, who noted that this semester has seen the largest number of women enter the College of Engineering in a decade.

After a few weeks spent living on the WISE floor, Snow said that for all the science and engineering majors living there, it seems like a "normal" residence hall floor.

"But everybody's studying all the time," she laughed.

It isn't all academics all the time, though. The floor's residents often get together for other fun activities or just to hang out -- admittedly, that comes in addition to keeping up with coursework, said Snow, who hopes to parlay her engineering education into a successful military career.

But for Snow, the floor has made it easier to transition into life at college hundreds of miles away from home.

"There aren't many people I know in classes yet, so it's a really good place for me to get to know people and the university," she said.

Related Stories:

"Saving the world one engineering student at a time," Sept. 18, 2008 --

"MSU student film looks at women's role in Kenya," Oct. 31, 2007 --

"Begay-Campbell to speak at MSU Berger lecture Oct. 5," Sept. 27, 2005 --

"Top engineering grad is a whirl of energy," May 22, 2003 --

"MSU scholar intrigued by legend of manly-hearted women," Feb. 6, 2002 --

Contact: Heidi Sherick at 406-994-2272 or at