As a doctoral candidate in the College of Engineering, Wystan Carswell ’12MS, ’15PhD, was all too familiar with the struggles that women face in STEM. In 2013, she joined the Graduate Women in STEM group on campus in search of comradery and support. After seeing the need for more female-focused resources, she and the other members of Graduate Women in STEM drafted a proposal for a Women For UMass Amherst (WFUM) grant in order to create a graduate-to-undergraduate mentorship program. Their goal was to provide undergraduates with a safe, nonjudgmental space for asking questions and seeking advice from more experienced peers regarding how, as women, to successfully navigate their male-dominated field.
Thanks to WFUM, they were able to do just that. WFUM is a philanthropic group of alumni dedicated to the advancement of campus programs that provide access, support, and opportunity for UMass Amherst students, with a particular emphasis on programs that have a positive impact on the community of women at UMass Amherst.
In her role on the Finance Committee of Graduate Women in STEM, Carswell helped create the program budget and co-wrote the grant proposal. With steep competition, she knew she had to be meticulous and learn how to craft the right message to engage her audience. Once they received the grant, their well-attended program was held accountable through progress reports and updates. WFUM shares these updates with those who donated, so gift givers can see how their money is spent. Carswell credits not only the grant they received, but the entire grant application process with helping prepare her to enter the professional world.
Now a successful geo-structural engineer at Haley & Aldrich in Boston, and a member of the WFUM Steering Committee, Carswell sits on the other side of the table. “I get to be in a room filled with really powerful women who are focused on elevating the next generation of female businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and innovators in STEM through thoughtful resource allocation. It’s really quite something.”
This year, the WFUM Steering Committee chose eight groups to receive grants, totaling $39,103. “I remember receiving our grant, and it just seemed like an enormous amount of money. Looking back, it’s empowering to think that such a relatively small amount of money can have such a big impact.”