School of Science / Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Scholarship Program

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Luce Foundation Grants $268,714 Scholarship Fund for Siena Students

Siena was one of only 21 colleges and universities in the United States invited to apply for a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation's Clare Boothe Luce Program this year. The program is the largest source of private support for women studying science, engineering and mathematics.

“This Luce award is truly an honor for Siena College, and a testament to the hard work of people in our School of Science,” said Fr. Kevin Mackin, OFM, president of the Franciscan Catholic institution in Loudonville, N.Y. “It will be a great help to our qualified students.”

Dr. Larry Medsker, dean of Siena’s School of Science, asked chemistry professors Donna Heald and Karen Quaal, biologist Rachel Sterne-Marr, astrophysicist Rose Finn, and Mary Ann Egan and Robin Flatland of the computer science department, to work with the college’s government and foundation relations director, Alfredo Medina, to shepherd the application.

Siena College's mix of students is approximately 57% women and 43% men. Women have proven their excellence in the School of Science, with the number of women slightly exceeding the number of men graduated in the past five years (292 female students out of 566), and with an average GPA of 3.24 (compared to 3.1 GPA for males).

Organizations such as the National Science Foundation have reported that women are significantly under-represented in the physical sciences and mathematics.

“We look forward to furthering Siena College’s role in encouraging women to have careers in science,” notes Dr. Medsker.

Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Time Inc. co-founder and editor-in-chief Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. She realized that many women face obstacles in their chosen professions. In her bequest, she sought “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” sciences and mathematics. Mrs. Luce was also committed to Catholic education. Her bequest required that more than half of the program's grants go to Roman Catholic colleges and universities.

A participating school must evidence academic strength as well as a commitment to increasing the success of women in areas of physical science.

The Luce grant of $268,714 will go a long way toward supporting excellent education for Siena College students majoring in biochemistry, chemistry, mathematics, physics, computer science or computational science. Siena has formed a selection committee made up of School of Science faculty who will interview candidates this fall.

A student receiving a scholarship, in addition to meeting high academic standards, will present a convincing case that she intends to have a career in science and be able to give specifics about goals and interests that show she has a commitment to a field of science.

Siena's newest additions for academic excellence include the Hickey Financial Technology Center, Morrell Science Center, Center for the Study of Government and Politics, Broadcast studies, and a cutting-edge program in atmospheric and space studies.


Founded in 1937 by Franciscan friars, Siena College has increased significantly in size and in the number and quality of the academic programs in its three schools: Business, Liberal Arts, and Science.

When Siena first admitted women as full-time students in 1969-70, Dr. Patricia Brown was an important role model as a scientist, for both male and female students. One of her three female students noted, “I felt isolated initially, but Professor Brown was wonderful.”

In the last 30 years, enrollment at Siena has doubled, with women comprising 57% of today’s student population. In the School of Science, 56% of students are women. Siena College has demonstrated a clear record of excellence, and of guiding men and women to achieve academic success in the physical and life sciences, mathematics, and computer science.

The percentage of full time women faculty in today’s science, technology, engineering, and math departments is at or above the national average: strong evidence of the college’s commitment. There are ample role models and choices of mentors for Siena’s undergraduates.

Strengths include working with undergraduates on research, a large pool of female science students, success with graduating higher than national percentages of female science and math majors, the above average percentages of women on Siena’s science faculty, and Siena’s philosophical and financial support of this project.

Several very successful women have graduated from science departments at Siena. Recent examples include a computer science major accepted into the very competitive General Electric Information Management Leadership Program, and a biochemistry major, one of only 10 recipients in the Northeast of an American Heart Association summer research fellowship (she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Cardiovascular Science).

The School of Science at Siena College has engaged in several activities that promote the participation of women in science. Changes to the introductory computer science course were implemented, having women faculty take highly visible leadership roles, supplementing the course with materials to expose stereotypes and to show contributions of women in the field, and modifying the laboratory with more group work and multimedia. The retention rate of women to the next computer science course doubled from 31% to 66%.

For 20 years, Siena’s School of Science has maintained funding from the National Science Foundation, mostly through the Research in Undergraduate Institutions program. Former Siena trustee, Mrs. Betsey Harvey, also enabled the college to institute a Summer Scholars Program. Through these programs, students have had the opportunity to participate in summer undergraduate research, and many have gone on to careers in science.