Grad Group Spotlight: University of Texas at Austin

2 Nov 2015


SWE_Sandia luncheon

Co-Chairs: Lindsey Sharpe and Valerie Gono

Over the course of the past 7 years, the UT-Austin Grad SWE group has hosted scores of different events, and only continues to have more innovate events with more grad student participation. Check out more about the UT-Austin Grad SWE group below!

When did your group start?

The SWE Graduate Committee was started in Fall of 2008 in response to the lack of events tailored to graduate women in engineering and computer science.

How is the group organized? i.e. how many core people are typically involved, do you have officers, how do you fit within the collegiate section, where do you get your budget (if you have one)?

Our group is considered a committee within the larger SWE section at UT Austin. We receive a budget line, similar to other committees, and report to the SWE External VP. However, we still operate fairly autonomously, guided by two Co-Chairs, who oversee event planning, budget management, etc. and a strong supporting committee of 6-10 focused graduate students who execute event planning and outreach. We also hold joint events with the undergraduate section to encourage socialization and provide resources for undergraduates considering graduate school.

What type of events do you host? How often do you host them? How many people tend to come to these events?

We typically host 3-5 events per semester. Once a month, we host some form of workshop or speaker event, over either lunch or a coffee/tea/dessert break. Topics of these events have ranged from successfully navigating conferences and giving strong presentations, to managing office politics, to financial planning considerations for graduate students. These workshops are either led by a guest speaker or consist of a panel discussion mediated by one of our committee members. Attendance is typically 25-40 people for these types of events. We also host at least one social per semester, and try to do monthly happy hours or coffee breaks, attendance of which varies much more from 5-25!

What is the one event or program of which you are most proud? 

We are extremely proud of the consistent event attendance because it means that the talks and seminar topics are of interest to the general graduate women population. Since our goal is to provide support for the female graduate student body, attendance is a source of validation and achievement for us as an organization. We are having an “Alternative Careers for Higher Degree Candidates Workshop” that we are excited about. We are planning to have a panel of alumni with graduate degrees who have taken non-traditional career paths to share their experiences with our current graduate student over dinner. We think this is going to be a really fun event for both the alumni and the current graduate student.

What tips do you have for a newly-started grad group?

For us, communication has been key! We have extensive support from the undergraduate section and the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) staff on campus, and everything tends to run much more smoothly (particularly regarding the budget!) when all the lines of communication are open. We’ve also started a listserv that includes every female graduate student in the Cockrell School of Engineering, which has helped to improve event attendance and diversify the departments represented at events. However, we’ve also recognized that the most effective way to recruit committee involvement is direct invitation to events and to planning meetings. Once people see how much we divide responsibilities in the planning process (and how much we enjoy each other’s company!), they’re much more likely to join! The more committee members the better, as it helps to lighten everyone’s load and and helps to brainstorm diverse events!

How can someone contact your group if they’re interested in participating?


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