I left my Zumba class in early August, telling my friends that I wouldn’t see them again until the following week because I was travelling to Los Angeles. One woman began asking me about my travels. “What are you headed to Los Angeles for?” she inquired.
“I was recently elected to the Board of Directors for an organization called the Society of Women Engineers,” I replied. “The Installation of the Board is tomorrow in Redondo Beach!”
“Oh wow,” she replied. “What does it mean for you to be on the Board?”
I began my answer by telling her about being an advocate for collegiates in STEM globally, but then I found myself diving into my own story to explain what this type of advocacy truly means for me. As a first generation college student, I didn’t have much guidance through my undergraduate career. My parents were never afforded the opportunity to attend college, despite the fact that both my parents show a significant technical aptitude, with my mother being possibly one of the smartest people I know. We learned the ropes of school together: how to gain financial aid, how to manage a college schedule with three part time jobs while still figuring out the right courses to take, and how to graduate with the degrees I wanted. I ended up graduating from two different schools at the same time in five years, with three degrees (physics, music, and electrical engineering).
In my second undergrad institution, I was introduced to SWE in my electrical engineering major. I had not joined a club or professional organization in college up to this point, but when educated about SWE from local professional members, I found that this would help me by allowing me to network with professionals and peers that faced a lot of the issues I did. As time went on, I began developing as a leader and started organizing events to bring together women in STEM, first in my school, then in my region. I became a voice in my community for STEM advocacy. I had people I could go to for advice in college and about grad school. The advice of SWE members that I am fortunate enough to consider friends, led me to my current school RPI, into SWE leadership, and becoming a respected leader in my community. My involvement in SWE, and the resources SWE gave me, helped me be successful in my own life.
My story changes my answer of what being Collegiate Director means, because I don’t believe that I can just advocate for all collegiate members (and professional members) at the Board level. The reason I was able to obtain a position like this is because members of local sections empowered me and helped me utilize SWE resources and gain knowledge about SWE to help me grow as an individual. This year, we changed the mission statement of SWE to include one powerful word: EMPOWER.
So, this is my promise to you, fellow SWE members: that I will not only advocate for you at any opportunity presented, but I will empower you to advocate for yourselves – whether in SWE, in your professional lives, or in your personal lives. Being Collegiate Director in a time of change for SWE means that I will not only need to keep you up to date with all of our latest SWE resources, but that I will need to keep regular communication with all members and to seek input from those who have it. It means that I need to make sure that you are aware of the fact that collegiate members can vote and are eligible to run for Society positions.
I hope that FY19 is productive for each of you, and that I get to interact with many of you over the course of the year. You’ll be hearing from me again soon on All Together and on the Collegiate Director Twitter and Instagram.
For those interested in continued leadership with SWE, I will present a webinar on September 5th with FY18 President Jonna Gerken titled “What’s next in SWE for me?” Register now for the free online session.
Jonna and I will discuss steps toward SWE leadership, and the nomination process for the upcoming FY20 society nominations. Collegiate leaders are important at all levels of SWE, and in addition to Officer, Senate, and Chair-Elect roles, the Board call also includes the FY20-FY21 Collegiate Director.
Collegiate leaders are an important, and diverse, perspective that helps our organization thrive and grow. When I joined SWE, I never imagined that I would be where I am today – in a position to help empower, advocate for, and communicate with members globally. I hope that my story will help empower some of you consider applying for these roles. Thank you all for continuing to empower me in my leadership, and career pathway.
Until next time,
FY19 Collegiate Director