In 2013, the Henry Luce Foundation awarded a 75th Anniversary grant to Ewha Womans University for Expanding Horizons: The Ewha Luce International Seminar for Women Graduate Students in STEM from the U.S. and East Asia. The goals of the multiweek summer program, also known as the Ewha–Luce International Seminar (ELIS), were to provide women in STEM disciplines from around the globe with an opportunity to explore and discuss gender, science, and leadership.
Ewha, a global hub for women’s education, has grown into the world’s largest university for women, offering the most comprehensive courses across subject areas today. The University has extensive experience creating and presenting international seminars and events in partnership with U.S. institutions and has, for half a century, been dedicated to the development and support of women in STEM. Describing ELIS, Yerang Seong, Professor for Special Appointment with Ewha, said, “The seminar gives [women] the confidence to envision themselves advancing in their fields. Participants can communicate with scholars in other fields, in other countries, [and] realize the importance of female role models.”
Last summer, I had the privilege to be a fly on the wall for the 6th annual Ewha–Luce International Seminar and was able to listen to the discussions of these incredible women. Through the Ewha Cyber Campus, participants engaged in leadership building activities, formed global networks, and joined cultural activities to break down barriers and foster collaboration. Sessions and discussions focused on STEM leadership, science for sustainable development, cross-cultural communication, presenting effectively in a digital world, and gender issues. The participants were also joined by a number of speakers throughout the program including the president of Ewha Womans University, Eun Mi Kim, and the president of the Henry Luce Foundation, Dr. Mariko Silver, who shared their experiences as women leaders and the qualities that make for an effective leader.
While the program was previously held in person, in 2021, ELIS, like so much of our world, moved completely online due to the COVID pandemic. Creative use of technology facilitated interactions between participants and webinar hosts. For example, students were asked to vote in polls by maneuvering their clickers to one side of the screen or the other, and as students moved their clickers, the screen would tilt like a seesaw to show how the crowd was voting. As someone who enjoys playful, interactive technologies, I thought this feature was a fun way to engage in group activities!
In 2022, the five-week program was also held virtually and focused on topics such as global leadership, empowerment, and networking. Even though the in-person connection was still missing, this year’s seminar allowed more women from across the globe to join, expanding to include Australian students and building a cohort of 36 women. By 2025, Ewha anticipates supporting more than 200 emerging women scientists, each a leader in her field.
Over the course of this partnership, Ewha has thoughtfully stewarded its grants and demonstrated incredible dedication to the women they’ve served. They regularly receive inquiries from other East Asian nations about the seminar, and ELIS has become a model for leadership programs in the region for women in STEM.
While the Luce Foundation's support for the seminar has come to an end, Ewha plans for the program to grow and evolve. In whatever form ELIS takes in the future, I have no doubt it will continue to be a force for change for women in STEM everywhere.