SWE’s Successful Scholarship Program

The largest scholarship program for female engineers would not be possible without successful applicants, dedicated professionals, and generous donors.
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By Mary Beth Biddle

As we wrap up the first round of scholarship judging, I’d like to take some time to give insight to how all the aspects of the scholarship program come together.  The cycle could not be complete without successful collegiate applicants, dedicated professionals, thankless HQ staff, and generous donors.  I hope this gives you some perspective on the largest scholarship program for female engineers (over $750,000 in 2016, with new scholarships being endowed each year!).

Collegiate Applicants

Each year, the pool of collegiate applicants amazes me.  Not only are they excelling academically, but they also have dedicated time to serving others through SWE, Habitat for Humanity, their local religious organizations, and more.  In addition, many applicants have held jobs within the engineering field – some of which leave me wishing I had explored more opportunities in college!  I encourage all students to apply – it’s one application to qualify you for all scholarships whose criteria you match.  Check out past blog posts for highlights of previous recipients.  While the upperclassmen application is closed for this year, incoming freshman have until May 1 to submit their application!  Don’t hesitate to share the news with any females you may know starting their college journey next year.  One piece of advice: make sure your transcript can be opened by others!


Once applications have been submitted, the scholarship team hands things over to our very capable judges.  Professional members from across SWE’s reaches – recent graduates, retirees, professors, engineering managers, and more – join the effort.  Judges are assigned a number of applicants to score based on academic preparation, community service, their passion for engineering, and other categories.  A rubric helps to standardize the process and make it easier for judges.  Judging allows professional members to get a glimpse of all the impressive things collegiates and high school students are doing.  The scholarships team works with judges to ensure that the workload is manageable, whether that means reviewing fewer, or more, applications; it is up to the judge.  The team appreciates any time the judges can dedicate to the program.


So, who is “the team?”  The scholarship team is comprised of the coordinator and coordinator-elect, Board of Directors (BOD) and Board of Trustees (BOT) liaisons, and HQ staff.  The HQ staff work tirelessly to update the website, make sure the application is clear, assign applicants to judges, and to provide guidance to the coordinator and coordinator-elect.  Throughout the year, HQ staff is answering questions from applicants and judges, communicating with universities, and ensuring that the team is on track.  They are the database for all SWE scholarship knowledge and help to keep continuity from year to year.  They are also the ones who ensure the universities receive the money for the scholarship winners!

With the HQ staff, the BOD liaison (SWE secretary), the BOT liaison, the coordinator, and coordinator-elect, all of the administration, selections, advertising, and recruiting takes places.  The whole process could not be complete, however, without the final puzzle piece: the donors.


In 2016, families, individuals, SWE sections, and companies have offered over 230 scholarships. Many scholarships are endowed, allowing their legacy to live on and for future engineers to have an eased financial burden.  These donors often reflect upon how important SWE was to their career or how engineering opened the doors for them to help others (https://alltogether.swe.org/2017/01/swescholar-rochelle-perry/).  Donors are truly the backbone of the SWE scholarship program and we thank them.  If you are interested in creating an endowed scholarship, please contact BOT-scholarships@swe.org.  The minimum donation is $25,000 for a $1000 annual scholarship stipend, and the donor can pledge to complete payments through a single payment or over 3 or 5 years if they wish.  Anyone can add to an existing endowed scholarship at any time, with no minimum amount required.  These details and many more can be found on the SWE website.

I hope this gives a good look into the SWE scholarship program – lots of work goes on behind the scenes, but we couldn’t do it without any of the people mentioned above!  I am looking forward to another rewarding selection process this year – the coordinator takes input from judges regarding applicants and scholarship requirements from donors to select all the recipients.  Good luck to all of our applicants, and thank you to all of those who volunteer their time and money to make this a success.  Feel free to reach out with any questions!

Mary Beth Biddle
FY17 SWE Scholarship Coordinator

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