SWE and Me

This post is a bit of an expansion of a post I wrote almost a year ago at while attending WE12. I hope this one will be a little bit better and contain fewer grammar errors as I am slightly less tired than I was.

I love SWE! SWE helped me get an internship, then help me get my first job after undergraduate studies, but the biggest impact of SWE has been the people I have met.

I remember attending the SWE welcome picnic my freshmen year, 2002, at the University of Kansas. I liked the idea of SWE, but I did not find time, at first, to be involved. I attended meetings, periodically, but did little else. At the beginning of my junior year, I happened to be at the meeting to elect new officers. I sat with a group of my friends, and they nominated me, first for treasurer and then for fundraising chair. I accepted because it felt nice to be wanted. I served in these positions for the next two years. As fundraising chair, I was responsible for managing and recruiting volunteers for a football concession stand that we shared with two other organizations. People hated volunteering because it was hard work and sometimes gross. I didn’t enjoy the concession stand, but I came to love the SWE women.

The president of the student section while I was working at the concession stand, was intelligent, driven and resilient. The amount of work she could do in a day inspired me. Cassandra would work, then work out, then reorganize her kitchen. With organizations like SWE, a few people must put in most of the work. She was one of those people. She made things happen.

After graduation, I moved to Utah, where I had no friends or family. I emailed, Chiao-ih, the president of the local professional section of SWE. She asked if I wanted to be an officer. I needed something to do so I said yes. I also met, Marilyn who had taken a non-typical path to her work as an engineer. Marilyn is older than I am and she became my friend and mentor.

When I enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I found it difficult to relate to the undergraduate community. I was old and cranky and liked to go to bed at 10:00 PM. My new university had a very active SWE section and although I went to the events, I never felt like I belonged. In 2010, I went to the SWE national conference in Orlando. Travel from Honolulu to Orlando is hard. When we arrived in Orlando, I was exhausted, and, because of a problem with our room, I was crabby, too. Our section had reserved a room in advance and we had an extra bed. Eva, a grad student from another university, arrived late, took the extra bed. I woke up just long enough to be rude when Eva arrived. But she didn’t hold it against me. The next morning, we found we had a lot in common. Eva is funny, intelligent and a pitbull when it comes to getting things done. The last year of my MS was difficult and, even though she lived in California and I was in Hawaii, and even though we had only hung out for a few days in Orlando, Eva became one of my best friends.

I started PhD studies at Iowa State University in 2011. The SWE section here is huge and well run. I was greeted at the welcome picnic and ushered to a special grad student table. Bethany had completed her undergraduate studies at ISU and been very involved with SWE; but when she moved into the grad program she found that SWE was no longer meeting her needs. So Bethany started the graduate committee. There I have found a wonderful community of women engineering grad students who are willing to address the issues of gender in engineering. This committee is the most productive group I have ever been a part and being a part of it has made me more productive.

This year I am the co-chair of our graduate committee, along with my friend Meisha. Word cannot describe how much I love working with Meisha. She is detail oriented, responsible and will always make sure things get done. She is also forgiving and supportive. I am so lucky to have found this wonderful group of people, along with Heather and Hannah we have grown the organization and met a lot of other great people.

I love SWE; it is an amazing organization that I have always been proud to be a part of, but the reason that I keep finding ways to be involved is because of the amazing ladies I have met there. These women have become my friends but more than that they have become my mentors and inspiration in a field where I often feel alone. The community that SWE provides has helped me more time than I can count to continue in my career in engineering.

In a few weeks Bethany, Hannah, Heather, Meisha and I will all be heading to Baltimore for WE13. It is going to be busy, it might even be stressful but I am excited. I get to spend time with people that inspire me. That is why I love SWE.

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