Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). There is increasing discussion nationwide about STEM education and jobs, especially for women.
There are few female engineers in the public sector in Kansas, especially in mid to small size towns, said Suzanne Loomis, Civil Engineer. She has worked for the City of Newton for 18 years. She feels there is a growing number of women in private engineering firms and larger cities.
Loomis became interested in civil engineering as while growing up on a farm, she enjoyed outdoor work and solving problems resourcefully. She likes the diversity of the field as well as the opportunities to interact with the public and make a difference in the community.
“Working as an engineer in the Mid-West has been good to me, but not without challenges or individuals who challenged by abilities, “ Loomis said. “I feel blessed to be working in a community like Newton in a field of work I respect and enjoy.”
Some of Loomis' more unique projects include the golf course construction at Sand Creek Station, renovating Fischer Field, constructing Fire Station No. 3 and airport hangars.
With her staff, Loomis seeks “innovative ways to keep Newton's infrastructure in the best working order possible,” while striving to keep the city in compliance with changing state and federal regulations despite shrinking funds. Loomis noted that the biggest challenge of all is balancing work and family life.
“This is the life of an engineer,” said Loomis. “Male or female, our motivations and challenges are quite similar.”
Beatrice Ruebke worked at Agco in Hesston for over 50 years, 32 of which were as a computer programmer.
While doing volunteer service work in Pennsylvania, Ruebke learned to enter data as a key puncher. With her experience, she was asked to work in that capacity as the first computers arrived in 1959. As her talent became evident, she moved up as a computer operator.
There were never more than one or two women working with her. Most men were surprised that she could do the job, said Ruebke. It was a male coworker encouraged her to continue to programming. “He was sure of my ability. His encouragement got me to do it.”
However, Ruebke said it was difficult each time for her to move to a new position, needing to prove herself at each point. In 1980, when she moved into programming, another young operator was not happy. He insisted that it wasn't right that she advance without the special aptitude test they were giving new hires.
“I passed with flying colors and he did not,” Ruebke said. She worked part-time as a programmer until her retirement at the age of 76.
The next generation of scientists, computer programmers, engineers and mathematicians are in our colleges. Bethel College is hosting its 8th annual STEM symposium, October 17-18, presenting two Bethel alumnae and their work in psychology.
Dr. Louise Hawkley, class of 1995, works at the University of Chicago as a senior research scientist, studying psychosocial factors in health and well-being during aging, as well as research in STEM education.
Dr. Angela Troyer, class of 1988, is a professional practice chief of psychology and program director in Toronto, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, and an author. She studies clinical mental psychology and researches memory and aging.
Bethel Professor of Psychology Dwight Krehbiel that the majority of their students are women in biology, psychology, chemistry, mathematics, and computer technology. Their numbers have been increasing the last seven or eight years, said Krehbiel.
Bethel had a scholarship grant specifically for STEM students. One of their goals was to “increase the number of women and minority students in STEM majors and careers,” Krehbiel said. Their recruiting “is paying off,” he said. “We definitely have quite a number of female students in STEM fields, and half of our faculty are now women.”