Society of Women Engineers received grant from National Center for Women and Information Technology

By April Arnold

When more than 25 students filed into the initial meeting to gauge interest in bringing back the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Loyola professors behind the push knew they would have a hit.

SWE is a national organization founded in 1950 by women engineers and engineering students to provide a community for women in a male-dominated field.

SWE at Loyola is a collegiate interest group that provides educational resources and networking opportunities for female engineering, physics, and computer sciences majors.

Megan Olsen, Ph.D, assistant professor of computer science and National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) representative at Loyola, suggested to Raenita Fenner Ph.D., assistant professor in Loyola’s department of engineering, and SWE President Argirenia Zervos, that they apply for a Symantec $750 Student Seed Fund grant from the NCWIT.

Fenner served as the lead for the grant and wanted to use it to kick off the 2012-13 year of SWE at Loyola with a leadership conference for students on the executive board to learn the management skills needed for that first semester to run successfully. She organized the event at the Hyatt in Cambridge, Md., in late September.

“I wanted them to feel comfortable being leaders,” Fenner said. “And I knew the students would get a lot out of it.”

Loyola professors Dr. Olsen and Dr. Robbie Sabin, along with SWE Collegiate Leadership Coaching Committee Region E Members Cathleen Saunders and Jayne Peterson, and Vince Connelly, president of President, Connelly & Assoc. Fundraising, LLC, gave presentations to students on topics pertaining to leadership, professional development, and fundraising.

Amy Hartzog, ’14, SWE executive board member, enjoys having this type of support group at Loyola. “The professors are wonderful,” said Hartzog. “I received a lot of individual attention.”

Her classmate Megan Gansfuss, ’14, agrees. “It just feels like a community.”

Loyola’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers | Photo by Nick Alexopulos, ’03

Their meetings include the logistics of putting together fundraisers, such as a candy apple sale they held in October. They set aside the majority of the time in their meetings for professional development, with a different member of the executive board responsible each month to bring in experts.

They’ve heard from representatives from The Career Center to learn about performing well in interviews and crafting the perfect résumé.

Another part of their professional development was attending the 12th annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in early October to network with professionals in their fields of study.

“It was amazing to be around so many women passionate about the same things you are,” Hartzog said.

Both students already have success stories to share. Gansfuss has a 10-week internship in software development at GE Healthcare in Barrington, Illinois, planned for June 2013. Hartzog finished an internship in the summer of 2012 with Cigna working on application development.

In the spring, they’ll be working towards raising funds to attend the 2013 Society of Women Engineers National Conference in Baltimore. They plan to do in-house fundraising activities like selling flowers, as well as seeking corporate sponsorship.

“The students are very enthusiastic about going to the conference,” said Fenner. “They just keep pushing forward.”

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