More Women in Skepticism. WE DID IT!

ZOMG you guys! I am so super-excited to tell you about the Surly and Women Thinking Free TAM 2011 grant recipients!

As you may be aware, the Women Thinking Free Foundation and I have been working tirelessly over the past few months to try and raise money to help out women who wouldn’t be able to afford to (but really wanted to) go to The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas this year. I had promised that at the very least I would send one woman. Well, guess what?

Thanks to the generous support of our wonderful readers and friends we raised enough to send ELEVEN women! How completely awesome is that?! Actually, there is one partial grant winner too so that is 11.5 recipients!

The first three grant recipients are listed in this blog post.

And now without further ado, here is the final 8 (and a half) Surly and WTFF TAM grant recipients for 2011!

Catherine Yurkovich
Cat has been a dancer since age 3 and spent 6 years performing as a Radio City Rockette. She has always been a dichotomous fan of science and the arts, and is a recent deconvert from the woo. Her passions include politics, environmentalism, feminism, social justice, and Bill Maher. She holds a B.S. in Speech from Northwestern University. As retirement from dance looms closer, she’s currently searching for her next career path. She does have a personal god, and his name is Bob Fosse.



Cindy Raspiller
Says Cindy:

I’m a science enthusiast with a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. I have a day job in marketing, but by night I’m the art director for the blog Cram Magazine (, where we publish intelligent art and literature from up-and-coming creatives. In my spare time I enjoy photography, roller skating, cooking, reading, web design, jewelry making, and a whole slew of other crafty pursuits. I’m so excited to attend TAM, meet fellow skeptics, and soak up the knowledge of the speakers and panelists.

We love the photo Cindy sent in!



Beth Voigt
Beth is a graphic design major at the University of Illinois at Chicago, currently trying to juggle four (yes, four) campus jobs. She got into skepticism after realizing that it wasn’t just a bunch hard-science doodz discussing test-market films while arguing about the hops in their seasonal microbrews. Although she admits to being swayed by the microbrews argument. She is interested in using her newly acquired graphic design skills to create art that will help facilitate discussion rather than argument.



Diane Graft
Diane is a native of Northern Virginia and graduated a long long long time ago from William and Mary, with a major in physics. These days she spends her time at a non-science day job, also raising two beautiful skeptical daughters, singing with the best chorus in the area, and absorbing all the information she can find on cognitive biases. She is developing a course for teens on the subject, entitled “Brain Glitches”, which she will be teaching for the first time this summer.



Emily Finke
Emily Finke is a Public Education specialist at a large midwest museum. She spends most of her time teaching museum visitors how to think critically via messy and occasionally slightly (intentionally) disastrous science experiments. She is also studying biological anthropology and has a tendency to keep more miscellaneous skeletal material on her desk than her coworkers are comfortable with. In her spare time, she can be found blogging (sporadically) at, tweeting (altogether too much) as @seelix, and informing people in pubs that penguins don’t live in the North Pole and that girls can indeed do science.



Cheri Cloninger
Cheri is an Alaskan braving the wilds of California, and a cancer research scientist. Currently she is working on the involvement of the AKT-mTOR pathway in chemotherapy resistant cancer strains. She loves working in the field of biotechnology which is challenging, quickly evolving and presents beneficial therapies for health care and quality of life improvements. Although her first love is science, her second is the arts. She enjoys making jewelry and hats out of insects, bones, and various other biological sources, painting, playing the piano, writing short stories and poetry, and going to Star Trek conventions in full Trekkie attire. She says her favorite quote defines how she tries to see the world: “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein



Sandra J. Schechner
Sandra is a certified prosthetist and orthotic resident practicing in Chicago, IL. She says she interested in evidence based medicine, and appreciates the opportunity to attend TAM.




Tracy Chovanec
Tracy Chovanec lives in southern California and is the proud mother of two critically thinking teenage boys. She is the daughter of a Baptist minister, and attended a Christian school from 4th through 12th grade. While working on her degree inBusiness, she took several critical thinking classes and subsequently escaped the Woo Zoo. After 15 years in Information Technology, she began pursuing her doctorate in Forensic Psychology. She recently completed her non-terminal masters coursework. Her long term goal is to be board certified in both forensic psychology and neuropsychology. To support this goal, she will begin working with acquired brain injury patients starting in July. She values knowledge and understanding of the truth (whatever the truth may be), and she strives to be a positive example of the idea that one can be moral from within.



Carrie Poppy
Carrie Poppy is a writer, actor and activist from Studio City, California. She is the co-host of the skeptical podcast Oh No, Ross and Carrie! and an active member of the Independent Investigations Group, which tests claims of the paranormal and holds preliminary demonstrations for would-be applicants to the JREF million-dollar prize. She plays “Ms. Psyche” on the popular web series, Mr. Deity, and has been published in Philosophy Now and Secular Nation. Carrie has been an activist since she was in diapers (which was not recently, thankyouverymuch) and loves to keep busy with investigations, demonstrations, and acting gigs. She also loves curry, vintage TV, and Richard Dawkins, who saved her from superstition in 2008.

*Carrie is our partial grant recipient. The remainder of her grant is being generously paid for by a friend.



We did receive a lot of applications from some really amazing women and so if you were not chosen this year please accept our sincere apology and know that we really wished we could send everyone. And for those of you who did get this year’s grants, congratulations! We look forward to meeting you in Las Vegas!

To everyone who helped make these grants possible, thank you so very much. Together we can and actually are making a difference.

*Last minute edit: I just realized that I still owe a bit more than we raised. I’m around $500 short. I am totally going to cover any of the funds I don’t have at the moment myself so everyone still gets to go but if anyone out there still wants to help me out you can. Just follow this link. Thanks!

*Edit 6/8/11 Thanks everyone I have all the money that was needed! Appreciate everyone who helped. See you at TAM!

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I think that this is a great idea, sending women to TAM. However, I can’t help but notice that all of these women are white. (Granted, I’m going by names and pictures alone, so I could be wrong.) Where’s the women of color?

    1. I agree it is a problem but we only could pick from who applied. No women of color applied that I am aware of. This is why encouraging diversity is so important and why I’m glad there is a diversity panel at TAM. I have hope that we can encourage more diverse men and women to get involved.

      1. Yes, what Amy said.

        We can’t give grants to women who don’t apply. Which is sad. I bet there are some fantastic skeptical women of color who could benefit from TAM.

        1. Elyse, I’m wondering how you would have known the ethnicity of the applicants. The application didn’t ask for it and you had already made your selections by the time we sent you our pictures. The selection process would have to be modified if ethnic diversity were to become a priority in addition to gender diversity. Maybe you could hit up the folks on the diversity panel to sponsor scholarships based on ethnicity next year. That way it would ensure that men of color would be included as well. If WTFF did it, the men would be ineligible.

          1. You are correct. There is no way we would know but based on on who was chosen and who was not we can pretty much narrow it down and assume. As for encouraging someone else to sponsor a grant program based on diversity and not gender, hell yes! I hope someone does it. This was a heck of a lot of work from my perspective but I’d like to think it was worthwhile and I hope someone follows in my footsteps. In fact, chovat I encourage you to start a grant program yourself!

          2. I find this thought process disturbing. Are they supposed to discriminate against women that are white or do you leave off the race question and award the grants to those that deserve it *regardless* of race?

            Reverse racism is still racism.

    2. Hey, beige is a color! At least it looks like we’re different ages, which is a start. Perhaps there will be more diversity next year. I’m just thrilled to be going!

  2. I’m so excited to see Catherine Yurkovich on that list, because she’s from my (tiny) hometown, and her mom was my music teacher in elementary school. Yay for more local skeptics!

    1. LOL! I think we’re the only 2 skeptics in that town. I don’t know who this is, but if you’re on my FB, send me a note.


    1. OMFSM, yes! Both Amy and Elyse have been amazing through this whole process. There are no words to thank them enough. Phil, I saw you at w00tstock SD last year. Loved, loved, loved your presentation! Can’t wait to see you speak again. =) -Tracy

  3. Great job with the grants. I know a couple of the grant recipients, and I’m glad they’ll be going.

    This is going to be a great TAM!

  4. Congratulations Emily. I didn’t know you read this blog until I saw your picture. Represent us well.

  5. Congratulations to the grant recipients and those that helped make it happen.

    I like the idea of a diversity sponsorship, but perhaps broaden it to cover people with disabilities.

    Looking forward to meeting everyone at TAM!
    (PS: We’re coming from Australia and we’re quite shy – please come up and say hello :) )

    1. Australian? Shy? I’m skeptical. (I have Australian relatives.) I’ll be a TAM newbie too. See you there.

    2. I love the idea of a disabilities grant. And while I’d certainly accept applications from disabled individuals, I don’t know that my organization is the appropriate one through which to run such a program.

      However, I consider all gender issues to be issues that apply specifically to women, and I’ve suggested that next year we expand the grant to be more gender inclusive.

  6. Brava Amy!

    Women being sent to TAM, please introduce yourselves to me there, it will be an honor to meet you.


  7. @hazza96 We didn’t activly advertise the grants outside of our local circle which is where the mistake was made. I don’t see how intentially sending out the message that a grant is being offered to a wider segment of the population in the hopes of attracting a more diverse pool of applicants could in any way be considered “reverse racism”.

  8. This is excellent! Some supporters sent some deserving students to NECSS and now we have supporters sending deserving women to TAM. The racism comment is silly. New people exposed to the community by allowing them to come to the primary events grows the community. Period!
    Now, should we, as a community, actively seek out other under-represented people ( the whole point of targeting students was to grow the youth component and the whole point of targeting women was to make sure the female population was more fairly represented ) ? Yes, of course. But that should not detract from the fact that the skeptic community is growing more and more diverse day after day.
    Well done! I’m proud to be a teeny part of the effort.

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