Society of Women Engineers

Good afternoon CNU! We’re starting right into our third week of the Spring semester and many new and exciting things are coming up! Today’s blog post is all about the Society of Women Engineers, SWE for short. Last week, I had the privileged of talking to Professor Lynn Lambert, who is the faculty adviser for the new organization.

About SWE

SWE is an international organization that was established in 1950. Their mission is to: “Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, while demonstrating the value of diversity.” Professor Lambert mentioned that nationally, fewer than 20% of undergraduates in engineering are women and the disciplines in our department are especially affected. SWE was set up to give women a place to talk to other women engineers and form a community.

How SWE Came to CNU

CNU had the beginnings of a SWE years ago but it never really took off. This year, a few students came to Dr. Lambert and asked if they could get an organization started up. Department chair, Dr. Riedl supported the idea and at the first Pizza My Mind of the school year mentioned that if anyone was interested in such an organization to let him know! The department talked about several kinds of organizations since there are many out there that are similar but decided on SWE. “The incredible thing about SWE is that when we [Dr. Lambert on behalf of PCSE] wrote to them [SWE Hampton Roads], they mentioned that they would allow all six of our department’s majors to count for membership! This was the organization that allowed the most amount of CNU’s women to join and that was the main reason why it was chosen over the others.”

Hopes for the Future

“I really want the students to decide the direction that they want it to take. They have talked about several interesting ideas. We’re considering starting a mentorship program and already have a considerable number of professional mentors from industry and from federal labs who have volunteered to mentor our students. Some other members want to do an outreach program with girls scouts! There are many great ideas floating around, a few members want to do tours of labs and engineering/science companies and labs. I truly cannot wait to see how far SWE goes at CNU.”

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Last Friday, SWE hosted a kickoff meeting in the DSU. The young women within the department who expressed interest in the organization were there along with some professors. SWE also invited women who are a part of a SWE organization that have graduated with a degree in engineering. There were two guest speakers (pictured above on both sides of Dr. Lambert) who spoke about their experiences with SWE and all the wonderful things that it has brought into their lives. It was at this kickoff event that I had the opportunity to talk to Haley Currence (pictured below on the right), president of the new SWE chapter at CNU. Currence is a part of the class of 2019 and working towards her degree in computer engineering!

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The Process

“In April, the SWE chapter at CNU will officially be chartered! When we were trying to get enough members to make SWE an official club at CNU, both CNU and SWE asked for a minimum of 10 women to get the club started. It was an incredible feeling when we got the notification that 22 women in the department showed interested in being a part of this and signed up. I was really overwhelmed in the beginning because it was just an idea that we had, we never truly thought that we would be starting a major club at CNU. This organization could be on campus for years to come and it’s surreal thinking that I was a major part of getting it started. I am beyond honored to have been a part of this.”

The Importance

“Being women in this department, it’s tough. It’s like being a minority on top of being another minority. I would like to see a support system built through this organization. I really want to emphasize the importance of unconditional support to the women and sticking together in a male dominate department. I would like this organization to encourage female students to not sit quietly and let male classmates next to her answer the question. I would like to see this organization build a community that empowers women to be courageous and be proud of being smart. We’re engineering majors, and that’s pretty awesome.”

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