The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a non-profit organization for women in engineering and technology. SWE was the first organization dedicated to women engineers, in May 1950. As a campus dominated by men, the women of RIT have naturally latched onto the organization and have brought it to campus to further improve the lives of the women engineers on campus. This past week SWE hosted an overnight shadow program for female high school juniors. The program allowed participants to explore various engineering fields though workshops and lectures, and also to check out the campus.
The program this year was a HUGE success, with over 60 high school girls in attendance. I did not have the opportunity to house one of the students, but I did have time to take the girls on a tour of campus and have dinner at Gracie’s. I have to admit, I was not excited to volunteer another two hours out of my schedule this week, but as soon as I walked into the room full of girls, of future engineers, I immediately remembered how I felt when I was looking at schools, and how these overnight programs had changed my experience in the college search. From that instant I was immediately thankful that I have volunteered, and I was ready to chat with these girls and show then how fabulous RIT could be for them in the future.
Last spring when I was making my final college decision, I came to campus for a similar overnight program. The program was focused on women in engineering, but led by WE (women in engineering) rather than SWE. I remember that prior to the overnight, I had pretty much ruled RIT out of my college choices because I did not want to go to school far away from home. After being paired with a current engineering student and moving into my new room, my expectations were blown out of the water. The work-shops included labs in the Toyota Lab, where we got to disassemble Toyota car breaks in attempt to make the process faster (industrial engineering); followed by a lab of cutting out a key chain in the mechanical engineering labs; and a tour of the microelectronic clean room in the full “bunny” clean suit. The workshops introduced me to the huge variety of careers included under the umbrella of “engineering” and all the different directions you can go with an engineering degree.
My favorite part of the overnight was staying in the dorms with a current student and getting a taste of dorm life. I stayed on the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority floor, which introduced me to a new culture of Greek life. In addition my host introduced me to the numerous clubs and organizations available on campus. Most importantly, she showed me that there is time for everything (if you are passionate about it); she is a duel-degree major, senator for Student government, a member of a sorority, the Resident Advisor on the floor, as well as a member of various dance crews on campus. Today I write this blog entry from the same room I stayed in one year ago - as the new Resident Advisor on the Zeta floor, the new KGCOE student government representative, a member of Zeta, and an Engineer. Over this past year, I have basically switched places with my hostess. I owe a large portion of my success to the connection that was made as a result of the WE overnight program. The program allowed me to officially declare that I wanted to be an engineer (after seeing all the options). The program also made me fall in love with the campus, and showed me there is more to the RIT them computers and calculators.
This experience was passing though my mind when I lead my group of junior girls down the quarter mile, so I made sure they had a great time on campus. I told them my story, my struggles in selecting a college and a major, my involvement on campus, and my advice for their years to come. It was fun to see the college selection process from the other side, and I hope that I had the same impact on their view of RIT as I received when I came last spring.
So in closing of this blog entry, I commend all the girls in SWE who planned such a successful overnight program, and I thank the juniors who made the trip to campus to learn more about what their future to look like. I also send a shout out to the women of WE who are hosting their annual overnight this coming Thursday.
“Scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been.” – Albert Einstein ( and SWE)