Geology Takes the Lead

Women in STEM at St. Lawrence

Ryan Deuel

“More women, more power and more geology at St. Lawrence University,” was the title of an August article in the Watertown Daily Times, covering recently published research by Helen Eifert ’18 and Alexander K. Stewart, associate professor and chair of the Department of Geology. The duo’s chapter, titled “Progress of Women in the Geosciences: Insight From a Small Liberal Arts University,” documented the higher than average number of female students at St. Lawrence University enrolled in STEM majors, including geology.

The chapter, which was included in Beth A. Johnson’s recent memoir Women and Geology: Who Are We, Where Have We Come From, and Where Are We Going? published by the Geological Society of America, documents Eifert and Stewart’s analysis of female involvement using geology alumni records. They found increased female participation in research within recent class years, with women averaging 71 percent of senior theses. Their study also demonstrated that 43 percent of women majoring in geology complete a senior thesis, which is also supported by a fellowship program.

According to Eifert and Stewart’s study, geology enrollments at St. Lawrence continues to be strong, showing that a small liberal arts model may actually strengthen the undergraduate experience and inspire increased female geoscience participation.

“Increasing the involvement of women in academia and the workforce starts with the undergraduate experience,” the study reads. “A small school-modeled education, such as the example given by St. Lawrence University, is one possible solution to improving these trends.”

“We’re a tight-knit community,” Stewart told the Times. He credits the geology club, department events, and an open-door policy as positive factors that bolster the students’ comfort level in the department. Stewart also hopes the conclusions drawn from the study can be used to increase women’s involvement in all STEM fields.

Eifert, who graduated cum laude in May with a bachelor’s degree in geology and a minor in outdoor studies, is a currently a doctoral student at Northern Arizona University in planetary geosciences. Her work with Stewart has resulted in the first article in at least 10 years to be published by an active student in the Department of Geology.

Female symbol made of stones