Grad Group Spotlight: Northwestern University

SWEGrad_NorthwesternUnivNorthwestern University

Evanston, IL

When did your group start?

GradSWE at Northwestern originally began in 2012. For several years, a small handful of women ran the group. In summer of 2016, we formed our first executive board which has greatly expanded our programming.

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)

We have an executive board that is currently nine people strong – comprised of a president, VP, administrative chair, finance chair, professional development chair, outreach chair, mentoring chair, social chair, and assistant coordinator. The mentoring and outreach chairs are our liaisons with the overarching collegiate section – attending their weekly meetings and keeping each board updated on the other’s events. Our most popular collaborative initiative with the collegiate section is our “Coffee With a Grad Student” program, in which we pair up an undergraduate interested in grad school with a graduate student mentor and supply coffee money. Since its initiation, over 40 students have participated in this program, with 92% of undergrads responding that they learned a lot about graduate school, and 64% more likely to attend grad school because of our program. We are also currently planning a series of workshops for the collegiate members on graduate school to be held this fall, with topics including “Applying to Graduate School” and “Applying for Fellowships”.

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

We host a combination of social and professional development events, with the intent of community building through social events and empowering women in STEM through professional development events. For social events, we organize a monthly happy hour for women to casually get the know other women in STEM in a relaxed environment. We also host monthly coffee hours on campus. Our recurring professional development event is our quarterly lunch discussion series, in which we invite a Northwestern professor to lead a discussion on a topic of her choice over lunch. Our inaugural lunch was this past April on the topic of “Articulating purpose, presence, and grit” with overwhelmingly positive feedback. We also aim to hold events with the local professional SWE sections several times a year, and have previously organized a joint trivia night and networking evening. On average, we usually have about 15-30 attendees at these events.

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

Our hallmark event is our Professional and Graduate Women in STEM Networking Night. We held our first event this April in downtown Chicago, and invited women from Northwestern graduate programs, local Professional SWE sections, and the Chicago Association of Women in Science (AWIS). It was a wonderful evening of networking and learning about various career paths. Attendees were invited to prepare lightning talks, and topics ranged from research to advocating for women in STEM to engaging in public outreach. We are looking forward to expanding this event even further and making this an annual event.

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

For a new graduate SWE group, remember there’s a lot you can do with a limited budget, especially on the community building side! Organize women to go out to happy hour together, or host a brown bag lunch for participants to gather and discuss a specific topic. Reach out to your local professional SWE sections about co-hosting events. Activities like these are not only low budget, but will also build up your visibility as an organization so you have a strong foundation for future larger events!

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

Please email us at

How to Benefit from Annual Conference without Attending

How to Benefit from Annual Conference without Attending

As the larger SWE community gets ready to descend on Philadelphia, PA for We16, SWE’s annual conference, many grad students are stuck in class, at the office, or in their research labs. Fret not, dear grad students! There are still ways to benefit from SWE’s annual conference without actually attending. Check out my tips below and comment if you have any tips that I missed.

1. Explore the Career Fair Exhibitors

Are you looking for a job, but will miss out on the SWE Career Fair? Check out the exhibitor list on the We16’s webpage ( These companies are looking for SWEsters. Consider applying for the jobs online and reaching out to the recruiters on social media. Many recruiters will be tweeting that they will be at #We16.

Alternatively, browse SWE’s career center any time of the year ( Many companies also have postings directed towards WE16.

Another option is to find a Career Fair advocate. Convince a friend/colleague who knows you well to approach companies and drop off your resume in person. Make sure to still apply online to those companies, but recruiters will be impressed that you are a SWEet enough job candidate that your friend/colleague was willing to take the time and talk about you to recruiters.

2. Browse Session Titles for Future Collaborators and Event Ideas

Are you an outreach nut? Have you always wanted to work in government but never knew how to start? Or are you looking for your next visiting speaker? Check out the conference agenda ( and browse the session titles. If something looks very interesting to you, reach out to the session speakers via LinkedIn or the SWE membership directory.

Do you want to know who from a specific school or company is presenting? Search keywords such as “University of Michigan” or “Central Intelligence Agency” or “Caterpillar Inc.”.

3. Register to Attend Virtually

If the distance and not the time is the only thing preventing you from engaging in We16, consider registering as a virtual attendee. You’ll gain access to special online content and see many of the sessions.

Register here:

4. Join in the Social Media Conversation

Find other SWE friends by seeing who is tweeting or posting or instagramming about the SWE conference. People are always giving or looking for advice. Join in the conversation!

Use #SWEGrad and #We16 on twitter and instagram


So, did I miss anything? What are your tips for those who won’t be able to attend We16 but still want to be involved?


WE16: Opportunities for Involvement!

We are only TWO months (plus a few days) away from the WE16 national conference in Philadelphia, PA! Participating in a conference session is a great way to justify attending the conference and network with fellow SWE grads. Here are TWO ways to become involved in WE16 as a grad student! These opportunities include:

  1. Rapid Fire sessions – call for applications
  2. GradSWE member survey/option to participate in a panel at the GradSWE Meet & Greet

Rapid Fire Sessions: Year after year, Rapid Fire presentation prove to be a very beneficial way for SWE grads to practice presenting their research in front of their peers and a panel of judges. The call for applications is officially open and due on Monday, September 26th at 11:59 pm EST. Please fill out the application here. Master’s and PhD students are highly encouraged to apply.

GradSWE Member Survey: Does your university have a GradSWE committee? If so, we would love to have your input! Each GradSWE committee arranges their funding and committee structures in a slightly different way. We are planning to devote time to discussing this at WE16. Ultimately, these efforts will create a reference of “best practices” as GradSWE committees become more prevalent across the country. We greatly appreciate your input! Please fill our the survey here.

For questions about either of these opportunities, Please email Rachel at with any questions.

Grad Community fliers

Heading to an event, say Region Conferences? Feel free to print off some Grad Community fliers to hand out to interested parties. See a graduate student? Make sure that they know about the Grad Community!

Feel free to use the flyer below (thanks to Rachel Sheppard!) and help us recruit more grad students into the Grad Community!




Grad Group Spotlight: Texas A&M Grad SWE

 25 Jan 2015

Co-Directors: Rachel Unruh and Judy Amanor-Boadu,


When did your group start?
The group started in Fall 2015. Before then, the section had a Graduate Liaison position reserved for a graduate student who served as an officer alongside the rest of the undergrad officers. The Graduate Liaison fostered collaboration between graduate students and undergrads and also strived to set up programs geared specifically towards grad students.

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)?

We have 2 co-chairs who lead the committee. Under the two co-chairs are the remaining four officers: the Membership Coordinator in charge of PR and keeping track of membership, the Mentorship Coordinator in charge of various membership programs, and two Professional Development/Social Co-Coordinators responsible for our biweekly Coffee and Cookie Conversations (C^3) events and other professional development and social events. We operate under the umbrella of the existing SWE section, but independently from and in parallel to them. We often report to the President on how the committee is fairing. Funding or budget is allocated to us by the Treasurer on the executive team and depends on what sponsorship they have at the time.


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

We host biweekly informal Coffee and Cookie Conversations (C^3) where grad students de-stress and share experiences, ideas, and tips about success in grad school. Some topics in the past have been “How to Train Your Advisor”, “Funding in Grad School”, and “Work-Life Balance.” Occasionally we have companies visit and sponsor Lunch ‘n Learns. We also have a mentorship program between grads and undergrads, grads and grads, and currently working with the Women in Engineering program to setup an industry mentorship network. Social events include holiday parties and informal Friday night hangouts.


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

Our biweekly C^3 discussions. We get a lot of positive feedback from it.


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

Be patient, ask other groups and learn from them. Also make sure you have strong, consistent PR to reach the most people possible. Once people start hearing about what your group is doing on a regular basis, they will become more interested in joining.


How can someone contact your group if they’re interested in participating?
Email Judy and Rachel at


Grad Member Spotlight: Jennifer Williams

28 Dec 2015


Jennifer Williams

PhD Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering, expected graduation May 2018

Oregon State

Jennifer has been a member of SWE since 2008 and has volunteered and served in various roles including Graduate Advisor from 2011 to 2014. She has been recognized for her scholarly achievements through many scholarship and fellowships, most notably the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship as well as an NSF scholarship. Congratulations, Jennifer, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!


What is your degree program (MS/PhD, department)? When do you expect to graduate?

Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Oregon State University (in progress)

May 2018 anticipated graduation


Give a brief explanation of your research

My research is centered in wireless sensor networks and energy-efficient communications for sensing systems as applied to ecological monitoring. I am fascinated by the way technology enables us to study the environment with low-power remote systems and sustainable networks for long-term observations.

From a communications and signal processing standpoint, my research takes an interdisciplinary approach to address challenges unique to environmental sensing and wildlife monitoring. Although still in the defining stage, my focus explores energy-efficient strategies for such wireless sensor networks, encompassing appropriate hardware selection, system architecture and operation, and power management.


What do you hope to do with your degree?

I hope to work on next-gen technologies applied to ecological research and education programs. My dream job would partner engineers and ecologists through applied engineering experiences in environmental and wildlife monitoring for conservation and wildlife protection programs.


What are your career goals?

Although undecided, I am most intrigued by opportunities in industry and government organizations, with interest in education and outreach components. However, a role in academia seems like a strong fit for me as well.
What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

My favorite thing to do is go on nature walks and learn about the environment. I also enjoy painting and sketching, and have helped design simple video games with my boyfriend. I love spending my free time with my boyfriend, our dog, and our two cats! Taking our dog to the park is always at the top of our list when we have time! I also really enjoy volunteering with animal rescue organizations.


What’s a fun fact about you?

When I was growing up in Texas, I loved going on horseback trail rides and competed in barrel racing.

SWE Graduate Community is now on LinkedIn!


Be sure to join the SWE graduate community group on LinkedIn!  The group is located under the SWE HQ LinkedIn group.  Click here to go to the group!

The group is meant to me conversational so feel free to post content about women in STEM and/or career opportunities.