Holly Norman: WSS Founder and CEO
By: Jessica Martin, SDSU Chapter Member
Do you ever wonder who you can thank for the life changing organization and community that is WSS? Look no further than our amazing Founder and CEO, Holly Norman, who saw a gap within collegiate communities and didn’t stop until she filled it.
Holly got the idea for WSS during her third year of college, because she felt out of place in her majority non-STEM sorority. She was having a hard time finding a solid support system that understood the struggles she was facing as a STEM major, so she started WSS to connect women who were on similar academic paths. However, WSS quickly became more than just a support system for Holly when over 100 women showed up to the first general meeting in Fall 2017- it became clear that she had identified a niche and it’s needs that weren’t previously being addressed by the university. Holly then dedicated her time to creating workshops and events to not only develop friendships and foster an environment of motivation and support between members, but to also help further their academic and professional pursuits.
After 3 months of successfully running WSS at San Diego State University, Holly started getting messages from women who attended other institutions that wanted to build their own communities for women in STEM by starting WSS chapters at their schools. After looking into it, Holly learned that the best way to set up and govern multiple chapters of an organization was through a nonprofit platform. So, Holly ordered a book called “The Nonprofit Kit for Dummies” off of Amazon, read it cover to cover (twice), hired a lawyer, and created the Women in Science Society, Inc. a 501(c)(3) Public Charity, and began establishing WSS chapters to help undergraduate women in STEM at other universities across the country.
Once WSS became officially recognized by the IRS, Holly found that despite being close to finishing an undergraduate degree, she had a major gap in her knowledge: how to successfully run a business. Not to be discouraged, she spent countless hours reading books, watching lectures online, and reaching out to experts for advice. Now, 2 years into being our CEO, she is settling in well to the business side of running a nonprofit and is enjoying her role with the continual guidance and support of our amazing Board of Directors!
Holly graduated from San Diego State University in May 2019 with a BS in Microbiology- Clinical Laboratory Science and Public Health and minors in both Chemistry and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies, and is currently running WSS while also taking classes at the University of San Diego to continue her education on how to effectively run a nonprofit.
Although Holly has made, and is continuing to make, incredible communities for women in science across the country, there are also many ~fun~ facts about her outside of her work with WSS. For example, she was an out of state student at SDSU, her family lives in Texas, and during her senior year at SDSU she raised 4 chickens and a pig in the living room of her apartment just for fun. She also has a passion for traveling and completed 3 different study abroad programs and countless independent trips while pursuing her undergraduate degree, and is now looking forward to moving to Southeast Asia this year, where she will continue her work with WSS remotely while she is living her best life abroad. Be sure to check in with our social media for updates!
To put it simply, WSS has changed Holly’s life by allowing her to discover her passion for diversity and inclusion work, and has continually inspired her to help women in STEM become the best versions of themselves that they can be. Watching WSS grow - both in existing chapters and in new chapters - has been a surreal experience and she can’t wait to see what the future holds.