SWENext programs and SWE have opened doors for many young girls entering college. SWE especially helped open the doors to MIT student Kaitlyn Hennacy, a chemical engineering student. She had not realized her passion for engineering until high school when some engineers came to her school to talk about their careers.
“I found it fascinating that their work dealt with problems ranging from health care to space exploration. As an engineer, someone can make an impact almost anywhere,” said Hennacy.
She continued to research more about what engineers do and found that this type of career would fit well with her curiosity for learning how things work and her love for creative problem solving. She hoped with this unique career path that someday she could bring about changes that improve the lives of many people. In addition to coming up with innovative ideas, she hopes to help preserve the environment.
“So many resources are being wasted while the environment is suffering and people are struggling with hunger and poverty. Fortunately, there are brilliant solutions out there that could help the world sustain a growing population while preserving the environment. I want to help industries embrace and implement these scientific and technological advances so that they can output more with a smaller footprint on the environment,” Hennacy stated.
Hennacy joined SWENext in high school to help get her feet solid on the ground after being introduced by some members of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab SWE Chapter. With the help of SWENext, she has been able to talk to experienced engineers who can give insight on what it’s like to be a woman in the field of engineering.
Hennacy explains, “This kind of information is super helpful to students before they enter college when they are still deciding what field they want to go into. I recommend that girls who are even a little interested in engineering join SWENext.”
Through SWENext and SWE, Hennacy received the Chevron scholarship her first year at MIT as well as the Monsanto Scholarship in her second year. These scholarships have not only allowed the financial burden of college to be more manageable, but they have allowed her to secure internship opportunities.
“Recruiters from both Chevron and Monsanto contacted me about internships at their companies after I received scholarships. This opens the door to opportunities for practical work experience and helps you start relationships with some great companies,” said Hennacy.
With this scholarship, Hennacy was able to intern at a water treatment plant, learning more about how to help save the environment through engineering. Outside of her class load, Hennacy continues to be part of SWE at MIT in their section of the Society of Women Engineers. What she enjoys the most about being a SWE member is leading activities that introduce kids to STEM concepts. She also contributes to writing articles for MIT’s student newspaper.
“If you remember to keep putting in your best effort, and not get discouraged when you compare yourself with better-skilled people, you will eventually gain the skills you want to have,” Hennacy concludes.