Kim Sargent has been supporting women students in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for about eight years. She is now being honored with the university’s 2019 Carol Sue Butts Woman of the Year Award. Named for the provost emeritus and former interim chancellor who served at UW-Platteville from 1998 until 2010, the award recognizes female employees and students who make a difference in the lives of women.
As program manager for the College of EMS Student Success Programs, Sargent oversees the Women in EMS Programs, which includes the WEMS Mentor Center, WEMS Mentor Program, Women in EMS Living Learning Community and the Women in STEM Banquet. She also advises the Society of Women Engineers student organization. With the assistance of her student staff, Sargent also coordinates STEM outreach programs for fifth through 12th grade girls that include the Women in STEM Career Day, Pioneering Your Future in STEM and Girls Who Code. WEMS tour guides also do specialized tours and lunches for prospective female students interested in College of EMS majors.
“We are at 14 percent women in the College of EMS,” said Sargent. “Our women students go to class and find there may be only one to five women in classes for their majors. Our Women in EMS Programs help to give them opportunities to find a place where there are other women interested in STEM. We just want them to know they are supported.”
Sargent knows firsthand the challenges that women can face in STEM programs. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from Central College, in Pella, Iowa.
“When I was getting my undergrad degree, there was no support like we have here,” she said. “I mostly felt that I was on my own, and I don’t want other women to feel that way now. That’s why I know what I do is vital to the recruitment and retention of women.”
Sargent earned her master’s degree in adult education from UW-Platteville and her master’s thesis was Women in STEM Living-Learning Communities: A Support Network to Increase Retention of Women in STEM Majors. “Helping women in the STEM fields is my passion, and I love what I do,” she said.
Sargent said that the most rewarding part of her job is seeing the success of the women students, especially at graduation. “I love going to the graduation ceremonies,” she said. “Seeing the students on stage, knowing I was part of their college career, and then continuing to mentor them after they leave, is one of the best parts of my job. I still have a lot of students I’m in contact with. I get invited to weddings, and I have former students stop by and visit. I’ve made friendships that are lasting, even though they are in a younger, different generation.”
Sargent said this award affirms that the work she is doing is making a difference, and she looks forward to continuing to make an impact. This includes a new industry mentor program she will launch this fall, which will partner junior or senior women with a professional woman in their field.
“Helping girls and women achieve their goals, being a part of their support network and being a role model is extremely meaningful,” Sargent said. “Our goal in WEMS is to have an impact on as many girls and women as we can in regards to choosing their future career. Each year we reach over 650 girls through outreach and around 250 college women who participate in our programs. I am proud of these accomplishments and the impact I have on improving gender diversity in the STEM fields."
Sargent will be recognized at the all-campus convocation on Thursday, Aug. 29.