Society of Women Engineers student section honored for achievements

ASU Society of Women Engineers

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) recently gave its Silver Award to the SWE student section at Arizona State University. The award recognizes it as one of the top-achieving sections nationwide.

The ASU group has been steadily expanding its community outreach and other efforts to promote engineering education to girls, encourage young women to enter the engineering professions and provide its members opportunities to network with professional engineers.

About 50 active members have been volunteering their time in the past year to organize and coordinate education outreach events such as GEAR Day and WOW! That’s Engineering.

At GEAR Day (Girl Scouts for Engineering Awareness and Retention Day), which drew about 130 girls, ASU SWE members guided Girl Scouts in using kits to build small catapults, circuit boards and models of solar cars.

About 200 middle school girls participated in the day-long WOW! event, tackling projects that combined lessons on engineering and sustainability.

ASU’s SWE student section was one of only three university sections in the United States to earn a grant to support its WOW! event.

ASU SWE president Nafisah Ahmad, a mechanical engineering major, says the chapter is not only reaching more young girls with the message about career opportunities in engineering, science and math, but is also increasing opportunities for its members to network with industry and business representatives. “We are preparing our members for life after college,” Ahmad says.

The section’s meetings typically feature talks by professionals in various branches of engineering offering career advice. Once each semester, the group also puts on Dinner With The Professors, which has drawn from 50 to 120 students to meet engineering schools’ deans and faculty members from the various engineering programs.

Section leaders say the event has led to some students getting opportunities to collaborate with faculty on research projects.
In recent years the group has been recognized by SWE as the top mid-sized student section in the country. This year’s Silver Award is a step up over a year ago, when the student section garnered an Honorable Mention for its achievements, says industrial engineering associate professor Mary Anderson-Rowland, who has been the faculty adviser to ASU’s SWE chapter since 1975.

“It’s a very big accomplishment for us,” says Joy Marsalla Edwards, past ASU SWE president and graduate student in civil, environmental and sustainable engineering, who was the engineering schools’ outstanding graduate in the spring of 2011.

Receiving the award was made more special, Edwards adds, because it was presented to ASU section members at the organization’s annual national conference in Chicago before many of the more than 5,000 women in attendance.

In yet another addition to its activities, the chapter recently began a planned series of Last Lecture events featuring engineering students sharing their experiences at ASU and offering fellow students advice on how to accomplish their goals.

The first Last Lecture event on Nov. 29 featured Susanna Young, mechanical engineering graduate student, and Ren Ishii, senior mechanical engineering major, giving instructive and entertaining talks about the insights they’ve gained during their college careers.

Another of the section’s Last Lecture presentations is being planned for spring semester. Non-SWE members, including the general public, can attend.

To learn more about the SWE student section at ASU, visit the group’s website

By Natalie Pierce and Joe Kullman