I probably write more about Rutgers than any other college advisor, but for good reasons. But the New Brunswick campus is the flagship state university in my home state, and it offers several benchmark academic programs that impact many students.
One of the largest programs is the Douglass Project within the all-female Douglass Residential College. Rutgers alumni before the 21st century may recognize the Douglass Residential College as Douglass College. Formerly all-female, it was a degree-granting liberal arts college within the state university until 2007. Today the Residential College campus and programs are home to 2,600 women, approximately half majoring in STEM fields.
“The Douglass Residential College is the most ethically diverse residential community on the Rutgers campus,” says Sally Nadler, Assistant Dean and Director of the Douglass Project. “Women make up 60 percent of the students in the sciences and pre-med at Rutgers,” she added. The Douglass Residential College supplements the learning community experiences in all majors with a Knowledge and Power course in the freshman year. This is, in effect, a freshman seminar, something that is not required within most of the university.
The Douglass Project combines the advantages of a residential college community with small group living-learning options in all STEM fields, as well as medicine, computer science and engineering. The living-learning communities provide tutoring, mentoring and networking opportunities that help to make a very large, and possibly intimidating, university community feel smaller. Rutgers is not the only university to facilitate these residential learning option. But it has more, over 70, than most other flagship state schools.
The umbrella of the Douglass Project includes Project SUPER which matches first-year and transfer women in STEM in the Residential College to ongoing research projects conducted by Rutgers faculty. Students who are selected for Project SUPER following a competitive application process take a three-credit introductory course in scientific research. Then they are matched with a professor and project. Some projects extend into paid summer positions after the freshman and sophomore year, and after the junior year for transfer students. Project SUPER students are mentored by juniors and seniors who have already had the experience. After the complete their research in their first and/or second summer, Project SUPER students participate in a symposium before the larger university community during the fall.
Project SUPER is also the most proven of the women in STEM initiatives. Since its inception in 1986, ninety-five percent of the students who began their Rutgers education through Project SUPER graduated with a major in a STEM field. Graduates have gone on to research careers in academia and industry, medicine, public health and government.
Project Super is not open to all Rutgers women interested in STEM, but every other aspect of the Douglass Project is–as long as they choose to be a part of the Douglass Residential College. Incoming freshmen, transfers and continuing sophomores and juniors are all invited to apply. The Douglass Residential College conducts regular Friday morning open houses for prospective students in March, April and May.
These opportunities are not unique to Rutgers. Women may find them at other colleges, too, including those that do not obligate them to live in all-female housing early in their college education. Rutgers has gone a step further than many schools in guiding women into rewarding careers in STEM–because the ideas and housing for their programs originated from some wise past decisions made by the leaders of a women’s college.