Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to account for a quote misattribution.
President Courtney Lemasney, Events Chair Hayley Shuster and Service Chair Allison West are just a few of the student leaders in Rowan’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE), an SGA-chartered organization on campus that focuses on empowering women in engineering and STEM-related fields.
In addition to their work empowering women in engineering and STEM, the students of SWE make it their mission to act as a support system for the women in STEM who need it, as well as to all students.
For Lemasney, Shuster and West, having SWE as a resource profoundly impacted their experience at Rowan and made them feel at home here.
“[SWE] has helped me to get even more involved on campus, and has given me the confidence to try new things and not be afraid to step up and take on future leadership roles,” Shuster said.
For Lemasney, SWE brought opportunity for connection with other female engineering students.
“I first learned about SWE when I was still considering going to Rowan at their annual breakfast event for accepted female engineering students,” Lemasney said. “Going to this event really solidified my choice to attend Rowan, because it gave me the chance to meet and see female students with a successful experience in the engineering program.”
For Shuster, the ability to ask questions and learn about the engineering program as a high school senior helped her transition into the program.
“I was invited to their annual Accepted Students Day breakfast during my senior year of high school,” Shuster said. “While I was there, I got to speak to female engineering students at Rowan to learn about their experiences in college and ask them questions.”
Lemasney’s goal as president has always been to “create an inviting and enjoyable environment for female students in the engineering program.”
“Many of the girls in engineering may be one of five — to even the only — female present in a class,” Lemasney said. “So, it is easy to feel outnumbered and not heard… I think it is more important than ever to make sure that my fellow students are feeling supported and know that they are not alone, and that SWE is a place where they can come to relax and be validated.”
Having annual breakfasts for accepted female students in Rowan’s School of Engineering is just one of the ways that SWE works to be a safe space, resource and source of empowerment for women in STEM.
Thanks to funding that they received from a grant, members of SWE have been able to start a workshop program called “Society of Women Engineers: Engineers in Training.” The purpose of this initiative is to teach middle school students about careers in engineering. SWE’s members are currently working to offer this program in a virtual format this summer, by sending packages with working materials to students, as well as teaching them how to complete engineering projects over Zoom.
SWE also holds a variety of professional development and social events. Some of these events have included movie nights and arts and crafts themed meetings. SWE also plans to put together goodie bags with candy and snacks to send to their members during finals week.
This semester, they also held their annual discussion and Q&A panel, featuring female faculty members in Rowan’s College of Engineering — this time in a virtual setting. Among the topics discussed were negotiating salaries, studying engineering abroad, graduate school and how to handle sexism in the workplace.
The students of SWE hope that they can “see women in STEM fields gain confidence in themselves and their abilities, be willing and excited to take on leadership roles and continue to make great contributions to the world.”
“Every year, many female and underrepresented groups drop out of engineering programs,” SWE said. “It takes all types of people to make great engineers, and if SWE can help empower students to stay, and succeed, in STEM fields, then we will have fulfilled our goal.”
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