Skip to main content

Evans, Mary Ann

Published onJul 30, 2021
Evans, Mary Ann

(September 1, 1939- )

Quick Facts

Mary Ann Evans created the Program for Women in Science and Engineering at Iowa State University, established the ISU Child Care Resource Program, and championed many other causes for women at the university.


Mary Ann Evans was born in Buffalo, NY in September of 1939.

Evans received a BA in political science from the University of Hawaii in 1963, then a MA in the same subject in 1965. Her next educational pursuit was a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering at ISU in 1987, followed by a PhD in sociology in 1992.

Evans started working at Iowa State in 1978. At Iowa State University, Evans held many positions including Interim Director for the Women’s Center, Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Assistant to the Provost, and Co-Director of the International Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program.

She was a member of the university’s Committee on Women for the majority of her career and championed many causes to improve the working lives of the women on campus. One major accomplishment while she was Assistant to the Provost was to develop the ISU Child Care Resource Program. This was a system of services including the Comfort Zone program for sick children and daycare facilities.

While studying for her master’s degree, she studied the attrition of female engineering students for her thesis titled A Study of Persistence Among Undergraduate Women Engineering Students. She noted many factors that prevented women from pursuing a degree in engineering including “lack of non-traditional female role models, math anxiety, parental and teacher expectations, and concerns about future family responsibilities” (Evans, 57). As a result of this research, Dr. George Christensen, the then Vice President for Academic Affairs, encouraged Evans to start a program to support female students in the sciences.

The result was the Program for Women in Science and Engineering, of which Evans was the founder and director. This program was designed to recruit women into studies and careers in the sciences and still exists today. WiSE goes to Iowa high schools to give talks, hold career conferences for girls in 6-12 grades, conduct teacher workshops, sponsor summer internships, and provide scholarships to attract students to Iowa State University. These efforts have had a large effect. According to WiSE, enrollment of women in STEM programs has increased from 1,819 in 1986 to 5,600 in 2016.

In addition to creating a program for women in Iowa and at the University, Evans also helped create and served as co-director of the International WiSE program. Through this program, around 60 female scientists from 20-25 different countries came to Iowa State to assist faculty with their research.

Evans received many awards and accolades including a spot in the Plaza of Heroines (1994), Iowa State University Carrie Chapman Catt Award (1990), co-chair, Way Up VII Statewide Conference for Women in Higher Education (1989), Women’s Political Caucus Woman of the Year (1989), and Alpha Kappa Delta and Cardinal Key (1988).

Evans retired in 2001 after 23 years of service at Iowa State. In 2004, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

Selected Sources

“About WiSE.” Program for Women in Science and Engineering, Iowa State University. Accessed 12/29/17.

Evans, Mary Ann. A Study of Persistence among Undergraduate Women Engineering Students / by Mary Ann Evans. 1988.

Iowa State University, Iowa State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection, RS 0/11/7, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library. Transcription:

Iowa State University, Office of the Provost, Biographical Files, RS 3/1/2, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

Iowa State University, Program for Women in Science and Engineering, Director's Records, RS 3/10/8, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?