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BS/MEng Mechanical Engineering
Clifton Park NY

Life in a 5:1 Ratio

Alissa Anderson on Thursday, 19 February 2009. Posted in Advising & Support, Coursework, Life After RIT, Majors & Minors, Student Life, Women at RIT

Thursday afternoon and back in Javas to roll out the last assignments of the quarter.  I have a materials processing paper to write, about the stapler I disassembled (and then totally put back together successfully!); and a microelectronics lab write up about the solar cells we are making the clean room this quarter.  I was working on my papers and contemplating my next blog topic, when I realized I never introduced myself or my major…

My name is Ali and I am a first year Mechanical Engineering student.  When I was applying to colleges last fall, I wrote my application essay about a light bulb that works forever… or something along those lines. I discussed the idea that today’s society has so much knowledge and potential, that everyone should have a light bulb that works forever (economically it saves money, and technology wise it is a great application of power).  The whole theory behind my essay as that society has placed restrictions on how we live our lives, and I would like to change that. I entered the engineering field to make a difference, to invent the next major “thing” in society, and work so that it is accessible to everyone. 

College is a time for individuals to find their passion and perfect their skills so that they cater to this love.  For myself, I have never had the artistic passion or skills that my photo major and metal majoring friends do. I will not be the next Picasso or big name photographer, and I’m okay with that. I have recognized my skills lie in the land of math and science. My brain is wired to think logically “in the box.”  Because my brain is programmed this way, I know the strongest way for myself to make a difference in society is though an application in engineering, which is why I find myself at RIT in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering.

Statistically there are way more men then women in the fields of science, math, and technology.  This could be a result of stereotypes in past generations, but the new millennium has brought a new wind of power to women and women’s rights, and the science field is one to enter for women because we are in high demand.  Women think differently. I don’t know why this is a new concept, but companies have recently begun to recognize this and have begun to recruit women into business for new ideas and new perspectives.

In my experience, I have loved the life of a women engineering on campus.  Most students worry about the male/female ratios in the classroom, but it is really a moot point. When I applied to RIT the ration was 3:7, this year it has increased to 4:6, so things are improving.  My engineering class is 1:5, but honestly the ratio does not deeply affect your life, in some ways it is beneficial to your experience.  If you are the only girl in your work group, obviously the boys are more likely to listen to what you have to say, because our ideas are naturally presented differently. In addition, RIT does wonders for their Women engineering, which is a large reason why I choose RIT over the other institutions I applied to.

The other universities I looked at had engineering programs similar, and arguably better then the one here at RIT. However, at those schools I felt like a number, and the stress level was huge because everyone, male or female, was fighting for the degree.  Last fall, I did an overnight for the WE (women in engineering) program. During this weekend event I discovered that the atmosphere at RIT is not as stressful because: a) the campus is composed of more then just engineering majors, and b) RIT stresses outside involvement, because you will go crazy if you only do calculus 24 hours a day.  The atmosphere on campus was a big factor in my decisions: though my primary reason is to become a Mechanical Engineer, I also want to enjoy my years in college and improve myself on all levels, not just my math levels.

Along with the atmosphere, RIT has a wonderful support system for the women in the engineering, math, science, and technology fields on campus.  WE works with the head of campus so that all women engineers can move to campus first. In August we moved in a week early to get acquainted with campus and to bond with the other women in our field, because once the boys move in it is hard to have a girl’s night.  I find I have more guy friends on campus then girl friends, as a result of the ratio. Because I moved in early, I have a bond with a group of girls who have changed my life, who understand my stress (because they too are engineers), and who have improved my overall success in classes this year.  The WE programmers also host events every Friday for the engineering women to come together for cookies or shopping – to get away from stresses of being a minority in the field.

Outside the engineering college, there is also a Women’s Center on campus, to support women of all majors.  Outside women support, there are free tutoring centers in all buildings on campus and on the residential side of campus. 

I have loved, and love my experience as a woman in the engineering field here at RIT. I believe campus is the perfect environment for engineering students, and treat their women like gold, which just adds to the experience. 

Being a woman in engineering does not make the work easier. But it is an excellent field that should not be ignored due to past stereotypes.   Use your brain and drive the train: be an engineer ☺

****For more information on life in the 5:1 ratio at RIT, the admissions office will be hosting a "Women in Engineering, Computing, Math, Science, & Technology" live chat Thursday February 26th from 4-9pm. The chat will be hosted by femaie students, such as myself, who will online and ready for any questions regarding RIT or the life in the science fields!  Click the Admissions Live link on the admissions website on Thursday to join! You will have to create a login name and password, so get ready! If you have any questions feel free to contact the admissions office at 585.475.6631.