By Blanca Rosa Navarro Piedra, SWE’s International Ambassador to Costa Rica
Several years ago, I learned about SWE from my mentor who was a fellow woman engineer. Thanks to her I joined the SWE community through my job and I became a SWE member. In 2014, I went to my first SWE conference in Los Angeles. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life because it led to connections with many other women engineers from different places that I am still in contact with today. At the conference I joined a workshop for international members where I learned about many projects in different countries, and I shared the projects I was doing to promote engineering careers in Costa Rican high schools. There I heard about the opportunity to become a SWE International Ambassador, so I applied and I was selected as the International Ambassador to Costa Rica in December 2014. During my first year my primary activity was to create a network between the Universities and High schools in Costa Rica. I reconnected with the Engineering professors of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology and the University of Costa Rica.
Through these connections I had the opportunity to speak with students to share the SWE Mission. The first year was a time to learn about SWE, build a network of women engineers locally and to try to inspire the interest of young women in SWE.
In my second year as ambassador, I expanded my university contacts into the private universities including ULACIT and University Hispano-American. A wonderful Texas Tech University student contacted me to share her idea to create a joint outreach project between University of Costa Rica and Texas Tech. From this, the project called The Energize to Globalize International Outreach was born and it was a great opportunity to show young students that engineering is a fun and exciting career. This outreach project is comprised of a series of rotational hands-on workshops for high school students that includes company networking, culture exchange team building activities, city and school tours for UCR and TTU students and a formal introduction to the current UCR engineering groups.
Now in my third year as ambassador, I launched the first international affiliate in Costa Rica for the university ULACIT, and I am helping a professor at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology with the affiliation process. I am also working with Villanova University, in Pennsylvania to collaborate with ULACIT and UCR to create a new International outreach project. This time, the goal is to hold 2 outreach events in March 2018 with 200 high students. In addition, I hope to start the first Costa Rican professional affiliate with women engineers of different companies. This is a big challenge but I am sure it will be the beginning of more exciting projects. During this time as an SWE International ambassador I have learned that engineering careers are for all and we can change the world one day at the time, so as Dorothy Parker said: “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit, there are footprints on the moon!”