Growing Women Scientists Through NeXXt Scholars Initiative

The New York Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, has announced that 12 international women and 12 American women will serve as its first cohort of NeXXt Scholars. The NeXXt Scholars Initiative seeks to empower women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by developing supportive networks of women scientists, engineers, and innovators. The Initiative encourages young women from countries with predominantly Muslim populations to obtain world-class STEM undergraduate educations at 38 U.S. women’s colleges.

The Initiative was first launched in December 2011 at the Academy’s “Celebrating Women in Science” event by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton via video address.

The first cohort of international NeXXt Scholars, who hail from Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey, were nominated through the State Department’s EducationUSA program, which helps promote cross-cultural understanding via academic exchange and study programs for both American and international students. The NeXXt Scholars will be attending the following schools: Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Columbia College (SC), Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Wellesley College, and Wilson College.

Representatives from the women’s colleges have nominated 12 American undergraduate peers to be the international scholars’ STEM-sisters; the women will benefit from each other’s friendship, support, and unique perspectives while pursuing an education in a STEM field and receiving the STEM-enrichment benefits provided by the Academy.

“Although there has been a push to recognize the importance of providing quality education to girls and women in STEM, gender disparities and challenges remain. As research has shown, undergraduate women still lack an adequate amount of role models and peers when they pursue STEM fields. Additionally, negative attitudes and lack of females in STEM fields contribute to a ‘chilly climate’ that can influence undergraduate women to leave their studies in STEM fields,” says Meghan Groome, executive director, Education and Public Programs, at the Academy.

The NeXXt Scholars, both American and international, will benefit from the guidance of a Fellow—a female working in a STEM profession who will mentor the Scholar as she navigates her undergraduate career. The Fellows range from a malaria specialist with the United Nations Children’s Fund to a PhD in chemistry who also holds an MBA and started her own research company. The Scholars, who wish to pursue fields ranging from chemistry to environmental studies, will have one-on-one mentoring relationships with their Fellows, but will also be linked to a wider network of STEM professionals through online resources and 5-year sponsored Academy memberships.

“By receiving Academy memberships and becoming part of the Science Alliance—the Academy’s program for university students—NeXXt Scholars will become connected to a rich network of peers, as well as robust career development resources. Science Alliance consists of approximately 30 partner organizations and more than 8,000 students; such a support system can be invaluable to women pursing higher education in STEM fields,” says Monica Kerr, director, Science Alliance, at the Academy.

Throughout the first year, the NeXXt Scholars, under the guidance of their Fellows, will participate in a STEM-related project. They will work to produce a presentation on the project that they can take back to their home communities. In this way, the women will learn to communicate STEM across cultures; build networks and develop collaborative skills for international STEM projects; take on a real project during their first year of studies; and benefit from the support of a female in a STEM profession.

For more information on the NeXXt Scholars Initiative, visit

About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy’s core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. For more information, please visit

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