WVU Alumna Kathy Hall-de Graaf was once asked by a coworker how it felt to be the only woman in a room full of engineers.
“My reply was that I can’t ever stop to think about that, or I’d start to doubt myself,” she explained. “When you are part of a minority, it can make you feel self-conscious and afraid to take chances or contribute your ideas.”
To help build a society where contributions are gender-blind, Kathy and her husband, Bruce R. de Graaf, have donated $25,000 to the WVU Foundation to establish the Hall-de Graaf Endowment for Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE).
WiSE is a new collaborative effort to bring together WVU alumnae who want to make a difference in the academic field of science by encouraging and mentoring young women in pursuit of professional careers within the STEM disciplines- science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The group’s main goal will be to foster a positive impact on WVU and the community while financially supporting faculty initiatives and student scholarships.
The gift will support a variety of research initiatives to promote, champion and broaden the efforts of female faculty researchers and graduate and undergraduate students by advancing STEM disciplines in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and the WVU community.
“I believe in giving back, and, as a female engineer, I understand the need to encourage women to go into technical fields and develop their full potential,” said Kathy about her support of the program.
Recipients’ research will fall within one or more of the WVU Research Initiatives, including: energy and environmental sciences; nanotechnology and material sciences; biological, biotechnological, and biomedical sciences; and/or biometrics, security, sensing and related identification technologies.
Funding opportunities will include resources for ongoing research efforts; equipment and instrumentation for STEM faculty research labs; research fellowships for graduate students; and research scholarships and enrichment opportunities for undergraduates that encourage young women to pursue science degrees. The dean of the Eberly College, along with the WiSE Giving Circle, will approve the research projects.
The endowment honors the donors and Kathy’s parents: John E. Hall, Ph.D., professor of microbiology, and Judith C. Hall, assistant professor of mathematics at WVU, for their support and encouragement of their children’s education and career choices.
Kathy Hall-de Graaf is a Morgantown native and member of the Eberly College Advisory Committee. She studied music through the preparatory program of the WVU Division of Music, and earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., before returning to WVU to earn a master’s degree in computer science.
Bruce, a native of Santa Barbara, Calif., served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam before earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.
The couple met while working in software engineering in Silicon Valley, Calif., and later settled in Massachusetts. Currently, Kathy works at Juniper Networks developing software for networking devices, and is also an avid beekeeper and musician. Bruce works at General Electric developing software for train systems and enjoys astronomy and music.
To support the WiSE Giving Circle, or to learn more, contact Bonnie Fisher, director of development, at (304) 293-4611 or Bonnie.Fisher@mail.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: Rebecca Herod, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
304-293-7405, ext. 5251, Rebecca.Herod@mail.wvu.edu
Follow @wvutoday on Twitter.