Rose-Hulman's Tilstra promotes leadership roles for women in STEM education

Submitted photoPromoting women: Rose-Hulman chemistry professor Luanne Tilstra talked about work and motherhood in higher education during the 2018 HERS Institute in Philadelphia last summer.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology chemistry professor Luanne Tilstra played a leading role in promoting women in science, engineering and mathematics education during the 2018 Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) Institute this summer at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Tilstra served as associate director for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) community engagement at the program, which promotes the creation of a diverse network of women leaders in higher education and seeks to enhance the career prospects of women in academia. This was her second consecutive year attending the two-week conference, which took place July 9-21.

In addition to providing general support for participants, Tilstra led discussions on how to talk to colleagues about privilege, strategies for creating a functional team and the realities of motherhood in higher education.

Her talk, titled “Work and Motherhood in Higher Education,” marked the first time motherhood had been formally addressed at the prestigious annual institute.

“If [helping women succeed in academia] is your focus, you have to talk about this topic,” Tilstra said. “This is the elephant in the room.”

Tilstra joined a diverse group of approximately 70 women in higher education from institutions across the country.

“Some of the most enjoyable sessions were the panel discussions featuring women who were college presidents, deans and legal counsel. They spoke of their day-to-day routine, support structures, and challenges that were — in their assessment — unique because of their gender,” Tilstra said.

Tilstra’s participation in the institute was supported by the Henry Luce Foundation and its Clare Boothe Luce program, which is one of the nation’s most significant sources of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering fields in higher education.