Best Practices for Female Undergraduate Students

  1. Undergraduate advising should be proactive – majors should be sought out, advised and supported. Some students need this support while others do not. It is not realistic to assume that all students are alike. Needing encouragement is not a sign of weakness; rather, some students come from backgrounds where pursuit of physics is not at all encouraged (other sciences like medicine or engineering are seen as much more practical), or it may not have occurred to them at all. For these students, extra encouragement simply brings them back to the same level as the more privileged students.

  2. Work in a research group is both educational and increases the sense of community. Undergraduates should be made aware of opportunities in research groups and encouraged to join them. Faculty should be encouraged to hire undergraduates in their research groups.

  3. Female undergraduates make terrific recruiters themselves, and can help a department maintain and increase the number of female undergrads. However, great care should be taken to request help from students only occasionally, and to distribute the effort.

  4. Department social activities including the daily cookies or other less frequent events should be adequately publicized to undergraduate students, through e-mail or other means. E-mail distribution lists for students, postdocs, and faculty should be developed if they do not already exist.

  5. Training for teaching assistants that covers sexual harassment and the importance of treating all students with respect should be available. A short seminar for faculty on these topics would be beneficial and is sometimes needed.

  6. Graduate school planning/GRE preparation information sessions should be available for undergrads.

  7. Information about other career options and interdisciplinary careers should be available for undergrads.

  8. Faculty should be encouraged to devote time to undergraduate teaching, and this should be perceived as a valued contribution to the educational mission of the department.

  9. A suggestion box and ombudsperson should be made available for undergraduate students.

  10. Provide an area for students to meet.

  11. Pay attention to female undergraduate students in class. Create assigned study groups and strategies for involving all students in the classroom to get all students involved in learning.

  12. Communicate to everyone in the department why climate issues are important and how a welcoming and mutually supportive environment will help the department recruit and support the best students and faculty.