One of the things that NSF really wants to see, in every proposal nowadays, is how students will benefit from proposed research and education initiatives. It is no longer "enough", if it ever was, to have a strong positive effect on one's field alone; ideally, the pedagogical and scientific benefits should percolate across STEM disciplines.
One of the things that came out of the Statewide EPSCoR Conference on 08 September 2004 was a discussion, catalyzed by Dr. Elizabeth Yanik's talk about STEM programs for young women, including the MASTER IT workshop and Expanding Your Horizons conferences. Here at K-State we have the Girls Researching Our World (GROW) program for middle school girls and the Teen Women in Science and Technology (TWIST) program for high-schoolers. Sometimes I get the impression that there is this persistent, willing assumption that by the first year of undergraduate studies, female students have been through enough attrition that the ones remaining in the program are tough. Either that, or that programs designed to maintain and boost self-confidence in female STEM students are working. I'm not sure that either assumption is actually true in reality, but judging by the understatedness of the Women in Engineering and Science Program, I think it's plausible that this view is held by some educators in STEM areas. What do you all think?
1 istari_ala, since you were feeling like one of the older students, I thought I'd mention that I was thinking of you along with the other young women who joined my group over the past few years when I conceived of it.