February 29, 2016
“What’s wrong with being confident?” It was only one of many songs played, but Demi Lovato’s hit seemed to blare louder than the rest at the 2016 Women in Science and Engineering Fashion Show. After all, the chorus carries a theme similar to that of the fashion show itself: be confident, and celebrate who you are! Dubbed with the title “Geek is Chic,” this unique fashion show celebrated the accomplishments and beauty of many women faculty members of Ogden College at Western Kentucky University.
An event like no other, this fashion show took place in the Hardin Planetarium. Floral arrangements were hung, and strings of lights bathed the dark venue in soft light. Spotlights shone onto each model as she made her circle around the planetarium, pausing to twirl and show off her outfit. Models for the fashion show came from the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, which promotes women entering the fields of math and science. The program hopes to improve the balance between men and women in STEM fields; currently, 68% in these fields are male. The WISE program partnered with WKU’s Fashion Merchandising department to make the fashion show a reality. The IDFM 432 class of visual merchandising students put on the show—the goal of their class each semester is to plan and hold a fashion show of some sort. This semester yielded a show quite different from any other.
The models dressed for three different occasions: A Very Busy Day on Campus (the category for casual attire), Testifying to Congress (professional clothing for presenting research), and Gala Wear. Some of the models appeared a bit nervous at first, but by the end of the evening, they were spinning around, whipping off jackets or glasses for a poised look at the crowd, and laughing happily as they paraded around the room. Prior to each model’s appearance, photographs of her family were projected onto the planetarium ceiling, and the audience got the chance to learn a little bit about this diverse group’s interests and accomplishments.
Dressed in a practical yet elegant black and white poncho, Linda Gonzales kicked off the show for the night. The first female faculty member to enter the agriculture department, she has worked there for 28 years and loves her field because it allows her to become closer to achieving her desire to feed the world. Many more impressive women followed her. With a confident spring in her step, Sharon Mutter showed off her pink, knee-length suede skirt. Proud of her scientific journal publications and her research grant, she thinks it is important for women to enter STEM fields because we need intelligent and creative people of both genders to help solve our world’s problems. Similarly, Naomi Rowland thinks that women can be in any field, regardless of stereotypes. Rong Yang, in a black and red dress, was celebrated for her beauty and her PhD in computer science. Julie Ellis, head of the engineering department, loves working with students and is proud of her son, a software engineer for Google. With a navy floral dress and her hands on her hips, Margaret Crowder, professor of geology, said that female voices need to be heard to empower women for society as a whole. Head of the psychological sciences department, Kelly Madole stated that no one is happy until they are in love with their job. It seems that all these women have indeed fallen in love with their jobs and found their place within the male-dominated world of science and engineering.
However, with events like this, the WISE program is working to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields and bring more women into the world of science and engineering. As shown by the fashion show, Ogden College has many impressive women faculty members, who are hoping to inspire other young girls to follow their dreams. If those dreams involve math and science, they don’t want any stereotypes to hold ambitious students back. In addition to inspiring young women, the fashion show also encouraged its models to have their own look and to continue to be confident in themselves. In the end, STEM topics may bring this diverse group together, but it is more than just that. Many similarities ran through the women’s bios throughout the night—their love for serving others, spending time with their families, hearing about the achievements of past students, and simply relaxing at the beach. Though their accomplishments are many, WKU’s women of science and engineering are regular people who share common hobbies and interests with others. And, they are just as beautiful as anyone else. After all, “what is beauty if the brain is empty?”
Hicks, Sarah. Poster. Digital Image. WKU News. “Geek is Chic” Fashion Show Feb. 29 at Hardin Planetarium, 23 February 2016. Web. 8 March 2016.
Pederson, Miranda. Model. Digital Image. Bowling Green Daily News. Photos: Geek is Chic, 29 February 2016. Web. 8 March 2016.