Meet this month’s SWE Scholar – Sarah Watzman. Sarah was a recipient of two SWE scholarships and has served in numerous SWE leadership positions, including the Board of Directors. Keep reading for more about Sarah and a look into a bit of SWE history!
HQ: What SWE scholarship were you awarded?
SW: I received the GE Women’s Network scholarship in FY12 and the Dorothy P. Morris scholarship in FY13. (See below for more on Dorothy P. Morris!)
HQ: How long have you been a member of SWE?
SW: I’ve been a SWE member since fall of my freshman year of undergrad, so 9 years!
HQ: What prompted you to join SWE?
SW: I joined SWE because I wanted female friends in engineering. I also joined because SWE had a reputation for being a supportive network and helping you grow as a leader and professional.
HQ: What was your major in school and why did you choose to pursue it?
SW: My B.S. and M.S. are in mechanical engineering, and my PhD will be as well. I chose to pursue engineering because I wanted to develop and further sustainable energy sources, and I specifically chose mechanical engineering because I thought it would give me the necessary design skills to do so. I’m currently pursuing my PhD because I love research!
HQ: How has being a member of SWE and receiving a SWE scholarship impacted your life today?
SW: SWE is the reason I stayed in engineering. I almost switched majors after my first year of undergrad, but I had been elected to a SWE officer position at Ohio State for the following school year. I didn’t want to let anyone down, and I knew that I had an incredibly supportive group of women to return to in the fall, so I stuck with it. I am so thankful that I did because engineering has led me to my passion in research!
Receiving SWE scholarships was also greatly helpful in funding my undergraduate education, making me worry less about how to pay for school and focus more on studying.
HQ: You served on the Board of Directors in FY17 as the Collegiate Director. What drove you to run for this position?
SW: I love SWE, and I am so thankful for the friends, mentors, and opportunities it has given me. I really wanted the chance to more intensely serve this organization that has given me so much, and I thought serving on the BOD would do this.
HQ: What is your favorite SWE memory?
SW: During my junior year of undergrad, I helped plan a leadership retreat for Ohio State’s SWE section. At the end of the day, we planned a social outing to SkyZone, an indoor trampoline park. Slightly wired on frozen yogurt and candy, we all stopped at Michael’s on the way to SkyZone and got highlighter-colored t-shirts, socks, and headbands and wore them to SkyZone. We had so much fun picking out colors, taking pictures on the trampolines, and seeing who could jump the highest! It was an awesome way to end a productive day of leadership training.
My other favorite memory would have to be at annual conference in FY13. Celebrate SWE still presented the Region Spirit Award, and then-Region G Governor Jessica Rannow was determined to get the award. The RCT wanted to help, so we decided we would be the “Region G Goddesses” that year, so we got supplies to make flower crowns at our region meeting to wear to the banquet. We had so much fun making the crowns and wearing them at the banquet, but winning the Region Spirit Award was icing on the cake! (See picture.)
HQ: What advice would you give to prospective engineering students?
SW: If you like it, go for it! Engineering is a really exciting, relevant, constantly changing, impactful, and hands-on discipline. There are so many diverse and interesting aspects of engineering — you should find what area within engineering you love and pursue it!
HQ: What advice would you give to others aspiring to be part of SWE Leadership?
SW: Get involved and seize every opportunity you can! There are so many leadership positions for different skill sets, there’s bound to be something for those who are interested. Be vocal about your SWE goals and use SWE mentors to help guide you down the right path
“A phone call from SWE’s first president, Beatrice Hicks, began Dorothy Morris’ relationship with SWE. Bea had seen an article in the Newark Star-Ledger about Dorothy and her accomplishments in the aerospace industry, and decided that should would like to meet this unique individual. Less than a year later, Dorothy found herself appointed as SWE’s United Nations representative for the first International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists (later ICWES). Dorothy’s responsibilities included publicizing he conference to as many foreign countries as possible. That first conference was a huge success, with 529 participants representing every state in the Union, and 35 other countries, in attendance.”
One of the scholarships Sarah received was the Dorothy P. Morris Endowed Scholarship. Dorothy was a long time SWE member and SWE leader. She joined the Society in 1963 and held a variety of prestigious SWE positions including being a Board of Trustees member for nearly 25 years between 1973 and 2003. She was a strong advocate for women engineers and knew the struggles that came with being a women in a man dominated field. In her oral history interview with SWE, she recalls a time when she was Vice President of her company, was extremely involved in negotiations for its sale and expected to retain her position under the new owner. Instead, she was fired the day of the sale, with the new owner saying “I won’t even commit to a female being a draftsperson in my company.”
Not only was Dorothy involved in SWE, but her husband Robert was one of the charter members of MASWE (Men’s Auxiliary of SWE) and served as Chairman of the group. MASWE was disbanded when men were granted full membership to SWE, and a MASWE scholarship is now offered by the Society.