Become a speaker at WE Local; Join us at Brainstorming Call soon!


WE Local will be heading to the San Diego CA, Salt Lake City UT, Raleigh NC, Buffalo NY, and Des Moines IA in 2020. Do you want to share your insights and expertise on a bigger platform like WE Local conference next to you? The Call for Participation (CFP) is open!

CFP Deadlines are –

San Diego CA, Salt Lake City UT, and Raleigh NC: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PT

Buffalo NY and Des Moines IA: Monday, September 23, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

You can read more about the WE Local Attendee Desired Content Topics and learn more about CFP guidelines and best practices here. Do you have session ideas or want to submit an abstract and don’t know how to get started? GradSWE invites you to attend the brainstorming call for the CFP on July 22 at 5:00 PM EST. Let us know here if you are interested in attending the call or submitting! During the call, you will get more insight on the criteria for evaluation and previous graduate speakers’ successful submission. The meeting agenda is also available here.


Integrating GradSWE with Collegiate SWE Sections

Collegiate SWE sections are often made up of a majority of undergraduate members and a minority of graduate members. It is easy for GradSWE groups to feel isolated from the rest of the SWE section but there are so many benefits to uniting undergrads and grads in your section! This year my group (Georgia Tech GradSWE) made a point to try to make a more united section. Hopefully you can get some inspiration for your Grad Group from our actions!

Actions Taken 

  • Delegate one leader in the GradSWE group to attend the section executive board meetings every other week.
    • This helped increase communication between the two groups and have at least  one person with a close relationship to the executive board, traditionally comprised of undergraduates.
  • Volunteer at an outreach event.
    • Every year the undergrads in our section organize a middle school outreach event. We volunteered to host a Parent Program which educated parents on the college application process. By holding this program we helped supplement the section event without imposing on the existing plans.
  • Get a group of GradSWE members to attend an undergrad planned social event. For the past two years, GT Grad SWE has attended Engineers’ Ball, an undergrad run charity event. 
    • This helps grad members meet undergrad members in a social setting.
    • By buying tickets, we helped the section donate more money to charity!


  • Make new friends!
  • We got invited to their awards dinner for the first time! (See some of us at the dinner below)
  • Increase the visibility of your Grad Group.
  • Fewer misunderstandings between the groups.
  • Access to more events for your members and increased attendance at your events.

Beating Your Workaholism…

I want to start off by emphasizing that this is not me doling out advice or wisdom. This is me compiling resources and information that I have found very helpful, and think it might be for you too!

I work a lot. And I don’t mean that as a “humble-brag” or anything, it’s just a fact. Evenings, weekends, holidays — you name it. Now, here’s where I think the real problem lies: I love what I do. This isn’t some Devil-Wears-Prada deal where I’m some lunatic’s personal servant, missing a Broadway show to try and fly my boss out of Miami during a hurricane. I think my research is fascinating, and I love seeing the results of my work! But I know that this pace isn’t sustainable, and I want avoid burnout at all cost.

A recent study found that workaholism leads to burnout, job stress, and diminished physical and mental health. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it’s also been shown that workaholism is not beneficial to the employer. Constantly working doesn’t necessarily improve the *quality* of your work, and it is likely that employers will soon take this behavior for granted.

But how do you differentiate between being a hard worker and being a workaholic? According to a study in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, the difference isn’t the total number of hours worked; it’s related to the problems that working causes in your life. The study reported that workaholics experience “social, psychological, and physical health problems as a result of their work addiction.” The drive to keep working leads to a “self-perpetuating downward spiral”: more work –> more negative consequences –> more stress –> decreased productivity ==> longer hours at work.

Workaholics also tend to feel frazzled, not really motivated or passionate. They experience guilt when they’re not working, and are irritable at others for commenting on the long hours they put in.

Thankfully, there are a variety of treatments available for workaholics. This article lists 7 steps for addressing workaholism, but I’ll list them here as well:

  1. Learn to shut it down
  2. Give yourself a break
  3. Change your mindset
  4. Treat it seriously
  5. Don’t bring it home
  6. Meditate on it
  7. Set healthy boundaries

For a more structured approach, there’s the classic 12-step program.

I hope this has been relevant. I know the pressure on graduate students is crazy, and it doesn’t help that we’re already predisposed to enjoy work anyway!

SWE is My Constant: Introducing the FY20 GMC-E

Hi, my name is Grace Pakeltis and I am the FY20 Graduate Member Coordinator Elect!  Over the course of the next year I look forward to working alongside the Grad Leadership Team to help provide resources, opportunities, and communities to graduate students in SWE. 

Why SWE?

Like WE16’s motto says, my life is variable, but SWE is my constant.  During my undergraduate career at the University of Illinois, SWE Illinois provided me with professional development, leadership opportunities, and a supportive engineering community.  I was able to pursue my desire to outreach to the next generation of engineers while simultaneously investing in my own future. The four years that I invested into SWE allowed me to grow into a successful engineer now pursuing her PhD.  Through every trial and every victory, SWE provided me with the resources and support I needed to continuously improve. I love being able to provide my fellow engineers with these same experiences. Knowing all that SWE has to offer to its members as well as the amazing community it provides drives my passion as I begin working with the Grad Leadership Team. 

The Community

I truly believe that having a community is vital, especially in graduate school.  As graduate students, it is easy to feel isolated and bogged down with the stresses of our day-to-day work.  That’s why one of the greatest assets of SWE as a society is the supportive community it provides. SWE provides a group of people who want the best for each other and can help you grow wherever you are at.  Whether it is a GradSWE group on campus or the larger GradSWE community, you can find your place in SWE. SWE has personally given me a group of amazing women who encourage me to soar to new heights. I am incredibly excited to help expand the GradSWE community and create new ways for graduate members to find the support they need!

How can the Grad Leadership Team help you grow? What do you look for in a graduate community? Let us know in the comments!

Grace Pakeltis is a PhD student at University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN and the FY20 SWE Graduate Member Coordinator Elect.

Welcome to FY20!

Hi, my name is Ceci Klauber and I am the new FY20 Graduate Member Coordinator (GMC)! In this role, I work with the rest of the Grad Leadership Team to foster a strong community and network for graduate students in SWE by supporting new and continuing programming, facilitating communication between graduate students in SWE and SWE graduate student groups, and representing the interests of graduate students to the Society. 

In serving as Graduate Member Coordinator Elect last year I truly enjoyed working with the amazing grad students and young professionals who choose to use their precious free time to embody the mission and values of SWE, both at the society and section level. Y’all are amazing! 


Carolyn Chlebek (FY19 GMC) and I receiving a SWE Mission Award – Silver on behalf of the SWE Graduate Community at WE18 in Minneapolis.

Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from the last year and look forward to what FY20 has in store!

Highlights from FY19

-The Mentoring Program expanded to include graduate student mentoring of undergraduate students! Many of you volunteered to share your grad experiences and the new program was a success – enrolling over 100 undergraduates!

-We rolled out a new format for sharing our learning content – YouTube videos! If you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to check out How to Create a Personal Website for Self-Promotion and Social Media for Self-Promotion today! We even shared tips on how to plan an event for your grad group around the videos- check out our Event Protocol Database for more details.

-We increased our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) efforts with informative blog posts about inclusion in engineering education and gender expansive engineering and a reading group. Our FY19 D&I Liaison also had the opportunity to speak at a SWE Hawaiian Islands event on underrepresented genders. You can read more about the experience on the blog!

What to Look Forward to in FY20

-WE19 planning is in full force! Keep an eye out for details on the Graduate Member Meeting, Networking Reception and Social – we’d love to meet you in person in Anaheim, CA. We will also be promoting sessions presented by graduate students, on topics such as mentoring and resiliency, and an ASEE SafeZone diversity training workshop. Consider applying for the Collegiate Leadership Institute or ALWE also!

-Have you seen the fresh new look of our newsletter? The new platform allows us to use multimedia within our emails and provides us with neat analytics that will inform future improvements to how we communicate with the GradSWE community.

-We are excited to continue well-received programming such as professional and personal development through webinars, YouTube videos, and the Mentoring Program. We are also excited to continue growing our D&I, globalization, and professional student outreach efforts.  We’ve got a great team this year!

What were your highlights of FY19? What do you hope to see from the GradSWE Leadership Team in the upcoming year? Let us know in the comments!


Cecilia Klauber is a PhD student at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX and the FY20 SWE Graduate Member Coordinator.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Gurshagan Kandhola

Gurshagan Kandhola
Biological Engineering
Summer 2019
University of Arkansas


Seeing the need for an organization that catered to the needs of the graduate students at her university, Gurshagan Kandhola, along with a fellow graduate student, established a GradSWE group at the University of Arkansas (UofA) just last year. Starting from a two-member team and a small event last summer, they now have a dedicated team of about ten officers who have successfully conducted various events over the year. Highlights of Gurshagan’s tenure leading the group include bringing in a female scientist who spoke about careers in science policy and a panel of highly accomplished female professors from UofA who spoke about their personal journeys. Both events were inspiring in different ways.

Their efforts have resulted in major expansion in terms of both membership and student involvement! They plan to continue conducting events and providing resources that the graduate students find useful, increase their visibility on campus by collaborating with faculty and other organizations (especially undergraduates in SWE and AWIS), have a website of their own and start a monthly newsletter.

Gurshagan’s work have been widely recognized across her campus. In 2018, she received the William Randolph Hearst Fellowship for outstanding contributions to SWE at the University of Arkansas. Throughout her academic career, she has given a number of oral and poster presentations at multiple conferences including ASABE, ACS, AACC and IFT; she was awarded first place in the graduate student poster presentation at the NSF EPSCoR annual meeting for Arkansas last year. She was one of three finalists selected from 28 National Science Foundation (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) states to present her research in Pecha-Kucha style, a highly concise format of 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide, to a general audience at their annual conference in 2017. She also won the three-minute thesis competition at the University of Arkansas College of Engineering, when the competition was newly introduced at UofA in 2016. For the past couple of years, she has been actively involved in various volunteer opportunities on and off campus as she likes to devote time toward causes she believes in, such as education and sustainability. These include judging local high school science fairs, mentoring local elementary and middle school students through the Passionate About Learning (PAL) program and the annual Women in STEM camp, leading recovery of surplus food from campus dining halls through the Razorback Food Recovery program for redistribution to community partners in need, and working with the City of Fayetteville recycling department to increase adoption of recycling in apartment complexes.

Gurshagan co-founded a start-up company a few years ago. The company received awards and recognition at various business plan competitions, including the Arkansas Governor’s Cup and Louisville’s Brown Forman Cardinal Challenge, and received $50K seed funding from the Delta I-Fund accelerator. The team ended up closing the company due to lack of the right technology-market fit; however, the experience was invaluable. With two other team members, she is in the process of co-founding another start-up, with a focus on the application of nanocellulosic materials in the agricultural sector.

Research Topic: Optimizing the extraction process and evaluating the physicochemical properties of cellulose nanocrystals derived from wood biomass.

The overarching motivation behind Gurshagan’s research is to develop biologically derived nanoscale materials that have the potential to solve some of the biggest problems of our time, such as contaminated food and water, environmental and human health, plastic waste, etc., while reducing our dependence on petroleum derived materials. Nanomaterials derived from cellulose have been shown to have diverse applications in various fields, but bottlenecks preventing widespread commercialization include low process yields and limited raw materials. Gurshagan’s PhD research focuses on improving yields by optimizing the production process and evaluating different wood species for their effect on the yields and physicochemical properties of nanocellulose.

After graduating, Gurshagan wants to be an entrepreneur and would also like to continue pursuing research, communication, consulting and policy-making in the science and technology sector. Eventually, she wants to venture into the non-profit sector with a focus on sustainability.

Outside of academics, Gurshagan likes playing badminton, going for long walks, and reading inspirational books!

Fun Fact: Gurshagan has personally met former President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, an iconic Indian scientist she looks up to.

More than an Identity Crisis

“Are you a student?”

This question always makes me pause. As a “part-time” graduate student, I don’t hold my main identity in being a student. I am first and foremost a “full-time” engineer, and school is something to tackle in my free-time. 

It leaves me with a major identity crisis of who I am in academia. As I explain my educational status, I’m quick to point out, “Oh, but I’m a non-thesis student!”, lest someone thinks too highly of my academic standing. 

“I’m only there for classes.”

“I don’t do research.” 

“I only do one or two classes a semester. It’s not like I’m a full-time student.”

I’m always quick to point out to my fellow students how I’m the poser, the faker, the imposter. I ride their coat-tails, and my degree will never be equal to a research-based Master’s. I’m 70% through a combined Master’s degree and certificate, and I fail to even see myself as a “Graduate Student.”

Do you see a trend here? If you’ve been involved with SWE for any amount of time, you may have heard of Imposter Syndrom. Previous GradSWE Blogs have covered the topic, and you can find a course on it in SWE Advance (linked here). I’ll leave it to my SWE colleagues to explain the issue in-depth, but it comes down to believing you are an imposter who will eventually be discovered as a fraud.

Like a Ph.D. student believing her research is not worthy of her peers, my own experience as a part-time Master’s student makes me believe I’m not as deserving of a degree as my fellow students.

I know that isn’t true. 

And I hope all students out there understand that graduate school is always something to be proud of doing.  These are some techniques I’ve used to fight off my own Imposter Syndrom traits.

Plugging into Campus Life

I’ll admit it: this is the hardest thing for a part-time student to do, and it’s often impossible for online students.  However, I’ve found that just by hanging around campus, I feel like more of a “student” again. Many larger schools have recreation centers that can be visited after work, even replacing a part-timer’s usual gym. Schools may offer evening activities, low-cost health clinics, counseling services, or other resources to all students. 

My first few years on campus, I rarely strayed from the path between my car and my class. It took me 3.5 years to learn my way around campus; it’s only about a 15-minute walk square! Now I’m much prouder to say I’m a student there.

At least I can finally find my way to the library.

Built a Support Network

John Donne published one of my favorite poems in 1624, “No Man is an Island”:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 

My favorite line is not that classic “No man is an island”, but rather “if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” On our darkest days, any student can feel like a clod of dirt, insignificant on a continent-worth of much finer ground. No matter who we are in academia, leaving before our time (like dying in the poem) makes the system that much less whole. 

Since “No man is an island,” no one can accomplish any goal alone. We all need people in our lives to support us, and we benefit from supporting others. When I connect with my classmates, I feel more like I belong. It can be hard for full-time and part-time students to meet, but we usually figured out a mutual time. Everyone is busy in their own way, so don’t shy away from trying to connect with someone with a different schedule.

Don’t Compare. Contrast. 

When I make the negative comments from the opening of this post, it’s because I’m comparing myself to people with different goals than myself. I’m not in a career track that requires a research background. 

Research-heavy students often end up in academia or research jobs, or they at least may aspire for that path.  While it is generalizing, the average engineer in a fabrication shop, automotive plant, factory, etc. doesn’t necessarily need to have a research background. And that is okay. 

Rather than compare, contrast. What can a non-thesis student learn from a thesis student? A non-researcher from someone in love with their lab? Share your story and learn the stories of others. 

Parting Words

When I started writing this post, I was writing about what I thought was an “identity crisis.” I felt I was just disconnected in a system that assumes a full-time commitment. I didn’t realize my “identity crisis” was actually hidden imposter syndrome.

If you start hearing your mind tell you the same things, you aren’t alone. No matter where we may be on our journey, from certificate seeker to post-doc, we are all worthy of being “Graduate Students.”

May your learnings be infinite, your research plentiful, and your degrees someday be complete!