RIT Women’s Group Wins 2012 Engineering Program Award

Women in Technology program recognized with national award for campus and community outreach

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Michelle Cometa

Civil engineering technology majors Christina Farnorotto, left, and Mel Miller lead a discussion about water contamination due to flooding or hurricanes to students from Churchville Chili Middle School. The presentation was part of the Women in Technology program’s Tech Squad K-12 outreach.

The Tech Squad has come to the rescue of many young girls interested in learning more about the different careers in engineering.

Part of the Women in Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology, the Tech Squad is only one of the successful campus and community outreach programs Women in Technology has developed to encourage young girls to persist toward degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to support the young women currently enrolled in the university as they pursue careers in the so-called STEM fields.

This work and RIT’s Women in Technology program are being recognized by the national organization Women in Engineering ProActive Network, also known as WEPAN, and will receive the 2012 Women in Engineering Program Award.

The Women in Technology program is being recognized as a national leader in institutional transformation efforts and for its role in increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering. The award will be presented to the group at the Women in Engineering ProActive Network awards banquet on June 26 in Ohio.

“It is quite an honor to receive this prestigious award and have our Women in Technology programming recognized at a national level,” says Betsy Dell, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology and director of the program. “It is a testament to the passion and dedication of the WIT staff, faculty and students that support our activities. We would like to express our gratitude to WEPAN for recognizing our efforts.”

The Women in Technology program is based in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology. Since 2004, the number of women in the college’s engineering technology programs has grown from 60 to 112 in 2010, an increase of 87 percent. In 2011, the group received its second Campus Action Project grant from the American Association of University Women. RIT was one of 11 U.S. colleges given the grant for its work to break down barriers for young women entering STEM fields.

The grant funded the Tech Squad and its programs for middle and high school students, as well as campus programs about communication, leadership and career development. Dell led the effort to acquire the grant and has organized numerous educational and mentoring activities, including Equal Pay Awareness events at the college and a series of professional development workshops the Women in Technology program hosts for the undergraduate students in the college, called EMPOWER—Engineering Technology Mentoring and Professional Skills Workshops for Enhanced Retention. Workshops address barriers female students face in persisting in the engineering disciplines, including a limited peer group, limited role models and lack of self-confidence in their ability to succeed in the STEM fields.