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 nuswe.grad@gmail.com

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