Gifts inspire women and minoritized people pursuing stem degrees

Geri (McLean) Carlson and Judy (Huie) Rogers.

WSU Vancouver’s new Life Sciences Building is taking shape! The roof is being installed on the second story, and it’s starting to exhibit the silhouette of its final form. The building will provide instructional and research space that will support cutting-edge learning opportunities for students in STEM disciplines.

WSU Vancouver broke ground on the building in November 2021, and has not been immune to market inflation. Originally awarded $57.1 million from the Washington State Legislature for predesign, design, construction and furnishing, the Washington State Office of Financial Management provided supplemental funds to offset market inflation, and WSU Vancouver will spend up to $4.5 million of reserves so the building can be completed as planned.

Gifts add shine

To make the Life Sciences Building serve students and faculty at its highest potential will take additional support from generous donors who share the vision. WSU Pullman alumnae Geri (McLean) Carlson and Judy (Huie) Rogers are two of those donors.

Carlson and her husband Chris have made a gift to name one of the large laboratory classrooms on the top floor of the building. Rogers made a gift to name one of the research lab suites on the middle floor. Each of the spaces will center research as a focus to inspire students and give them an understanding of how important new discoveries are to all of us.

“Geri and Judy were first and second to name labs in the building. Their gifts are extremely meaningful because of their leadership as alumnae, WSU Foundation Advocates and because these gifts send a message to students about women’s impact in the STEM disciplines,” said Jennifer Miltenberger, associate vice president for development.

How the gift came to be

Rogers and Carlson met in French class at WSU Pullman when Rogers was a sophomore and Carlson was a first-year student. They struck up a friendship that led to becoming workmates grading papers and tests for a math modeling class, roommates and life-long friends. “Through the years, we have supported each other from weddings to birth of children and major milestones,” said Rogers. Both women have also supported WSU by serving as WSU Foundation Trustees (now Advocates) and other volunteer positions.

Rogers graduated in 1974 with a bachelor of science in computer science and a minor in mathematics. Carlson graduated in 1977 with a bachelor of science in computer science with a civil engineering focus and a bachelor of arts in business administration. They both settled in the Seattle area after graduation.

Following college, Rogers went to work for Boeing where she worked on various projects, including computer load and resource analysis, the Airborne Warning and Control System, and flight simulation of autopilots and auto throttles for 727s and 737s. After that, she worked for Proprietary Software Systems and SpaceLabs Medical. “In all those industry jobs, I was typically one of a few females. I was fortunate that in every situation I was recognized for my leadership qualities and used those opportunities to mentor and promote young women,” said Rogers.

Immediately after graduation, Carlson went to work as a network services supervisor at the Switching Control Center for Pacific Northwest Bell. The center was responsible for the first computer-driven central office switches in Washington. “Being the first female supervisor, 20-plus years younger than my peers, in a department that had one female technician, provided many growth opportunities,” said Carlson. She said she felt privileged to support many women technicians who joined her department.

Offering that same kind of support to women and minoritized populations pursuing STEM degrees is part of what motivated Rogers’ and Carlson’s gifts to the Life Sciences Building.

Rogers and Carlson agree that having labs named after women is an important piece of the Life Sciences Building. They hope seeing those names will encourage women to pursue STEM fields, succeed and support future generations.

“I had the privilege of taking many different science classes at WSU and want to be sure the next generations do, too. I hope this cadre will feel supported and encouraged, find success in their fields, then have the opportunity to pay it forward,” said Carlson.

Opening in 2024

The Life Sciences Building is expected to open in spring 2024. It will house lab space for programming in biology and chemistry, serving general educational needs for all students and foundational courses for an array of STEM degrees. It will also house basic, translational, applied and clinical health programs including medicine, molecular biology, neuroscience, nursing and psychology.

Originally posted at WSU Vancouver