Podcast: Voting Rights for SWE Collegiate Members

Penny Wirsing, SWE’s FY19 President, talks with Mary Beth Biddle, FY18 SWE Faculty Advisor/Counselor-Elect, about collegiate voting rights under SWE’s Governance Update.
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(Penny’s Introduction)
Hi, I’m Penny Wirsing, FY19 President of the Society of Women Engineers and this is SWE’s Diverse podcast series. Please remember to add this podcast to your iTunes and like or follow us on social media. Visit swe.org for more details.

Joining me now is Mary Beth Biddle. Mary Beth is the FY18 Faculty Advisor/Counselor-Elect and currently Counselor of Temple University.  She is also the Philadelphia Section President.  She’s going to be filling us in on how the Collegiate Faculty Advisors and Counselors will be helping with SWE transitions in the coming months.

Thanks for joining us Mary Beth.

Mary Beth
Thanks Penny, I’m happy to be here.


Let’s talk about the new voting rights for collegiates. How did this come about?

Mary Beth
There were a number of changes approved by the SWE Senate last October, all designed to help make the SWE leadership experience more meaningful. I think one of the most exciting changes is the fact that collegiate members now have the right to vote. The first election where collegiates can participate is coming up shortly, so we want to get the word out so everyone can be prepared to participate.

What does having the right to vote in Society elections mean for our collegiate members?

Mary Beth
Previously, every two years the presidents of each collegiate section voted to elect SWE’s Collegiate Director, and that was pretty much the extent of collegiate voting. Now the Collegiate Director will be on the ballot along with the rest of the Board of Directors, and all SWE members will be voting for everyone on the Board. This means collegiates will be voting for all Board positions, not just the Collegiate Director. So it will be important that everyone take the time to understand the qualifications of the various candidates and make their selections carefully.

What information will be available to help them make a decision, and when should we look for election materials?

Mary Beth
Every candidate will have a bio and photo to accompany the ballot. I would like to point out that we have some very impressive candidates on the ballot this year, so I encourage all collegiates to read up on these leaders to learn more about them.

As for timing, the Nominating Committee has finalized the slate and the ballot should be distributed by April 1. All members will be receiving an email with a special code that will allow them to log in and vote. Voting needs to be completed by May 1, and results will be announced by mid-May.

I want to point out that Ingrid Arambula, our current Collegiate Director, was elected to the Board in FY18 for a two-year term, consistent with the other Director terms. She’ll be continuing in this role for the next fiscal year so you won’t see the Collegiate Director on the slate that comes out in April. I’ll also note that several of the positions on the ballot may only have one person listed. Don’t be discouraged that there aren’t a lot of contested positions – this simply means that our Society Nominating Committee has done their job well to select and put forth a great slate of officers to position the Society well for FY19.

Will there be other candidates that specifically represent the collegiate voice?

Mary Beth
The Collegiate Director position will remain, and as I mentioned this is now a two-year position consistent with the other BOD positions. We found that having a one-year position really didn’t give us enough time to come up to speed, so even though it can be hard to make a two-year commitment toward the end of college, it was still the right thing to do.

As for other positions like Senator, while there aren’t specific positions assigned for collegiates, there are still opportunities for collegiates to be major contributors. The idea is that we’ll be selecting representatives from SWE’s many diverse backgrounds, whether college or career stage, or the size of your employer or SWE section, as well as ethnic and other diversity aspects. As we know, a lot of our collegiate members have great leadership experience through their university and extracurricular activities.

I would say to collegiates, you have the same chance as professionals to be elected as a Senator. Don’t be afraid to consider this role. You will even see a collegiate on the ballot this year, which is why I think your vote is important!  I also encourage collegiates to seriously consider being nominated for positions in the future, if and when they meet the qualifications.  Read the bios from the FY19 candidates to see the variety of SWE “career paths” that others have followed toward leadership!

What are some other ways collegiate members can stay involved in SWE leadership? Many people are familiar with the Region Collegiate Team positions, and those will no longer be available, correct?

Mary Beth

It’s true that with the dissolution of regions, positions in the Region Collegiate Team will no longer exist. It’s important to remember that these positions haven’t always existed so this is just one more phase in SWE’s growth. SWE needs to be constantly understanding and evolving to meet the needs of our members, so while some specific positions are going away, there are still lots of opportunities.

In addition to the senate positions I mentioned, collegiates can also get involved in committees. In fact there’s work underway right now to help collegiates – and all SWE members – better understand all the various opportunities available through the various committees. One in particular that would be great for collegiates is the Leadership Coaching Committee, or LCC. This committee focuses on section vitality – helping make sure all our SWE sections understand SWE’s mission and how they can help advance that mission while learning and growing as individuals. What better way to learn more about SWE, grow your own leadership capabilities, and help others as well. Other examples include the outreach, curriculum, and awards committees.  If anyone is interested in more information they can go to the SWE web site and look under Leadership at the bottom of the page.  The contact information for all coordinators and chairs can be found there as well.

Thanks, Mary Beth. I appreciate all the information. Do you have any final thoughts?

Mary Beth
Thanks, Penny. I want to encourage all the collegiates listening to this podcast to vote in the election this year, and to encourage all in their sections to vote as well.


To find out more about the Governance Update, go to governance.swe.org or email your questions to governance@swe.org. For periodic updates via text, text “SWE Governance” to 56512.  You can also contact me at president-elect@swe.org or Collegiate Director Ingrid Arambula at collegiate-director@swe.org

Mary Beth is the FY18 Faculty Advisor/Counselor Coordinator-Elect and current Philadelphia SWE president.

Mary Beth, thanks for participating in SWE’s Diverse podcast series.

For SWE, I’m Penny Wirsing. Thanks for listening!

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