SWE's President Gave a Commencement Speech and Received Honorary Doctorate

Jonna Gerken, president of the Society of Women Engineers, encouraged the Class of 2018 to seek inclusive and diverse perspectives on May 20 at the Commencement exercises for the School of Engineering.
SWE's President Gave a Commencement Speech and Received Honorary Doctorate

An accomplished project manager at Pratt & Whitney, Gerken was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the evening ceremony. Alexander Clark, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and programmer, also was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters.

For Gerken, her remarks were an opportunity to reflect on the past and to seize the future.

“Inclusivity is more than just saying it. It’s the actions you take to make the folks around you feel like their opinion matters, their perspective is important,” Gerken said. “Visible diversity is important, because you can see it, but it’s not all that matters. Diversity of age, education, socio-economic background, religion, physical ability — all of those make us the unique individuals we are.”

In today’s fast-paced environments, Gerken said, workplace teams need to function at a high level and solve problems quickly, collaboratively and from all perspectives.

“An engineered object, process or whatever doesn’t know anything about the person who designed or developed it,” she said. “That’s the beauty of the field of engineering — anyone can engineer anything and the product doesn’t care. The issues arise when the engineers themselves aren’t fully diverse. They can’t see all the perspectives, can’t appreciate the differences in all of us that make our thoughts unique and results in a better product.”

Gerken told the graduates they can start leaving a legacy of inclusion immediately.

“You should start your careers knowing that you can leave a legacy wherever you are, and in whatever role you have, all the while striving to be inclusive,”

Click here to see the video of Jonna's commencement speech and acceptance of her honorary doctorate.

Article content and imagery used within this post are originally posted and credited to Quinnipiac.