by Britt Johnsen - Winona Daily News - Minnesota - USA

Jason Bauman doesn’t fit the stereotype of a nurse. His nursing program at Winona State University is 90 percent female.

But Bauman is just the kind of student educators are looking for.

Women account for six out of 10 students at most U.S. universities, but even though women dominate colleges across the country, many undergraduates still choose fields stereotypical for their genders. Men gravitate to technical fields like engineering and computer science, while women fill the usual roles of teachers and nurses.

And that is exactly what schools in Winona hope to change.

Last month, Bauman began leading an initiative to recruit more males and people of color to the nursing profession – starting with middle school students.

Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical has a similar program. Saint Mary’s University hopes to get more men to become teachers.

While some are concerned about the lack of male college students, other schools are mostly concerned about diversity, and stressing to all students that they can go into any field they choose.

‘Opening their eyes’

When Bauman took a course where he had to work in obstetrics, he was nervous about how female patients would react to him.

“I came in there thinking they weren’t going to accept me,” he said.

As out of his comfort zone as he was, the experience went well, he said.

Stories like that could open the eyes of students who are the minority in their program. Winona State, Saint Mary’s and Southeast Technical are all trying to diversify traditionally gender-specific programs, getting more men into teaching and more women into auto mechanics.

Bauman said male students sometimes get teased for going into predominantly female fields like nursing – and stereotypes persist about guys who choose to be nurses.

At Southeast Tech middle school, students shadow college mentors studying non-traditional fields. Girls might learn about machining, boys cosmetology.

“You’re opening their eyes to other possibilities,” said Peggy Whalen, Southeast Tech’s director of marketing.

For the first time this year, the cosmetology program has a male teacher. This might make the program more appealing to male students considering the program, Whalen said.

Saint Mary’s started a mentorship program this year to provide role models for male students studying to be elementary teachers.

Nate Emerson, vice president of student affairs, said it is intimidating for students to enter a classroom with no one else of their gender.

“It’s hard to get them to take a critical look at nontraditional (careers),” he said. “It’s starting to turn around.”

Exception to the rule

While many universities are working for gender balance, Saint Mary’s is the exception – with 53 percent females and 47 percent males.

Local educators said strong teaching and nursing departments, which draw more women, tend to tip the balance.

Saint Mary’s did not begin accepting women until 1969, which accounts at least in part for the strong male presence, said Tony Piscitiello, vice president for admissions.

Carl Stange, admissions director at Winona State, said he is less concerned with the ratio as a whole and more concerned with diversity, showing all students they can be what they want to be.

Judith Roy, Women and Gender Studies director at Century College in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, said she doesn’t think the national shift of female-dominated universities is as large of a concern as some people think.

Like Stange, she would like to see more focus on increasing racial and socio-economic diversity on campus.

“I see it as a glass half full rather than a glass half empty,” she said.

Breakdown of area undergraduates


47 percent female
53 percent male


67 percent female; 33 percent male

Childhood early

adolescence education

90 percent female; 10 percent male


37 percent female; 63 percent male


53 percent female; 67 percent male


61 percent female
38 percent male


91 percent female; 9 percent male

Elementary education

85 percent female; 14 percent male

Business Administration

39 percent female; 61 percent male


64 percent female; 36 percent male


58 percent female
42 percent male


90 percent female;

10 percent male


57 percent female;
43 percent male


(Winona Campus)

99 percent female;
1 percent male

String instrument Repair (Red Wing Campus)

8 percent female; 92 percent male


56 percent female
44 percent male