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SWE’s Highest Awards: A Look Back

A key part of the Society of Women Engineers’ mission is to recognize women at all levels and career stages in the profession through its esteemed awards program, which publicly acknowledges their individual contributions and commitment.

“SWE’s Highest Awards: A Look Back” was written by Marsha Lynn Bragg, SWE Contributor. This article appears in the 2019 Conference issue of SWE Magazine.

“SWE’s history is not something that just happened. It’s what we built for ourselves.”

This statement from Society of Women Engineers FY15 President Elizabeth Bierman, F.SWE, can also be said of the robust recognition program SWE established more than 65 years ago. These awards — 18 individual categories, one group award for high-functioning teams, and one award designated for high school students — honor women from all walks of life, at various stages of their careers, from an array of engineering and technological disciplines, and the men and institutions who support them.

“In so many cases, getting these awards is putting women forward as role models so that other people can see that this level of career success, or personal success, or whatever kind of technical success — whatever it is — is achievable,” Bierman said.

The Society of Women Engineers took this sentiment to heart in its early years. These forward-thinking members knew the importance and value of recognizing women engineers in a public and profound way. Doing so would not only draw attention to the women being honored, but also to the engineering profession, indicating it was a discipline worth pursuing and one in which women could indeed excel.

What did SWE do? Shortly after its founding, the Society established what is now called the Achievement Award. The concept may have seemed lofty when that first award was presented in 1952. And it was, with an impact that has been far reaching.

The Achievement Award prompted many corporations to take another look at the recipients and other women in their employ. It caused companies to promote women into leadership positions and establish mentoring programs for women engineers to ensure their success. It caused corporations to invest in training programs and initiatives to expand their recruitment efforts and diversify their ranks. It led many organizations to create their own internal awards and publicize the accomplishments of these women to broader audiences.

Major national and international corporations began to engage with SWE, setting up endowments and other funding sources for specific awards to guarantee their permanency. Other companies became corporate sponsors after SWE, in 1961, launched the SWE corporate membership. This was followed by corporate-sponsored SWE scholarships in 1974, and a revived industrial advisory board in 1989. SWE also collaborated with select corporations to establish the Corporate Partnership Council in 2003 for guidance and expertise from industry leaders.

For 16 years, the Achievement Award was the only award SWE presented. It was one of the few avenues of honor and acknowledgment women engineers were likely to have received. It remains the Society’s highest honor. It is presented annually to a woman who has made an outstanding technical contribution over a significant period of time in a field of engineering. Her academic training may be in either science or engineering.

Previous versions referred to it as the Award for Meritorious Contribution of Engineering and also the SWE Award until the Society settled on the Achievement Award designation.

A woman who receives an Achievement Award is often described as a fast tracker, a doer, an achiever, highly motivated. A person who gets things done.

Such was the opinion about Mária Telkes, Ph.D., who received SWE’s first Achievement Award in 1952. A research associate in metallurgy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SWE acknowledged her for her contributions in the application of solar energy. The Hungarian-American physical chemist and biophysicist was credited with inventing the solar distiller and the first solar-powered heating system for use in homes and outer space. Dr. Telkes also devised the first inexpensive and easily operated oven that could generate heat using solar power; it was used by villagers in poor arid areas around the world. (See the feature story “Celebrating the Sun Queen” in this issue for an in-depth look at Dr. Telkes’ contributions.)

SWE's Highest Awards: A Look Back award
Dr. Telkes proudly shows the award to members of the Society. From left: Dr. Telkes; Katharine Stinson, of Washington; Lillian Murad, SWE vice president; and Beatrice Hicks, SWE’s first president. The event took place at the Statler Hotel in New York.

SWE added other awards to mark various aspects of women’s success and involvement in the profession and their participation in SWE. Women engineers who started their own companies were recognized with the Entrepreneur Award. Women making their mark in the industry within 10 years were recognized with the Emerging Leader Award. Women providing ongoing service and effective leadership to SWE were considered for the Distinguished Service Award.

SWE brought men into the fold with the Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award in 1968 to recognize those who made conscientious efforts to promote gender diversity, equity, and upward mobility for women.

The latest round of awards has come with the SWENext program, which encourages girls ages 13-18 to continue their studies in STEM fields. SWENext inspires girls to action through several challenges and an awards program geared to high school students. Recipients of the SWENext Global Innovator Award are recognized at the awards banquet at the SWE annual conference.

SWE members and groups with successful programs that promote diversity and inclusion are eligible for its Mission and Multicultural awards.

These high-profile awards that recognize the contributions of women in engineering and technology specialties help SWE advance its mission as a global, inclusive organization, one that gives voice to and empowers women in engineering and technology regardless of age, geography, or career stage.


How difficult is it for women to be allies of other women, especially those within the same profession? How difficult is it to use one’s position to create opportunities for others where none existed or were limited in scope?

SWE identified five women in 2015, the first to receive its new Advocating Women in Engineering Award. It honors up to five professional or community leaders who have demonstrated professional excellence in their chosen STEM fields and have proved to be passionate advocates for women in engineering and for SWE’s objectives.

These women stood out as advocates for other women. They used their positions within their companies to assist and support others. Their awards featured the following citations:

SWE honored Roberta Banaszak Gleiter, F.SWE, for “extraordinary, continuous dedication and commitment to the advancement of the engineering profession, particularly advocating the advancement of women in engineering.” Gleiter is CEO and board chair of Global Institute for Technology and Engineering, a nonprofit, educational, public service organization dedicated to elevating the status of women in the international technology and engineering workforce. A chemical engineer, she joined The Aerospace Corporation in 1980 after taking time off to raise her family. Throughout her career, Gleiter has supported STEM awareness and has launched programs to improve math education.

Agnes Chau Klucha, director, engineering for the Sensors and Integrated Systems Business Unit at UTC Aerospace Systems, was applauded by SWE “for a career dedicated to bringing women and diversity into the engineering profession, while introducing new, more effective and efficient strategies that help drive innovation in the workplace.”

Casee Eisele, project manager with the Enterprise Customer Acquisition Process Program Management Office at John Deere, was cited for her expertise in cross-functional team management, and product development. SWE recognized her for “innovative, inclusive, and inspiring leadership, including starting and growing SWE groups overseas, as well as technical achievements and involvement in the community through mentoring and outreach.”

Patty Lopez, Ph.D., a senior platform applications engineer at Intel Corporation, was a first-generation university student who grew up in rural northern New Mexico, the sixth of seven children. She has spent the past two decades as a change agent, trying to understand and address how organizational structures can elevate or hinder women in engineering. SWE commended Dr. Lopez for “encouraging girls, especially in underserved communities, in STEM activities, and for addressing how organizational culture impacts women and minorities’ recruitment, retention, and progression in STEM careers.”

Chief systems engineer for the CH-53K helicopter, Lynn Tinker, with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, was honored for “demonstrating throughout her career that both subtle and direct daily actions can ensure a lasting effect in advocating women in STEM and in engineering.”

Advocating Women in Engineering Award

It has always been a challenge to not only attract girls to STEM fields, but also to get them to consider careers in STEM. Educators are instrumental in this process because of the direct influence they have in their roles as teachers, mentors, coaches, and guidance counselors.

Distinguished Engineering Educator Rosalia N. AndrewsSWE sought to celebrate educators who have made significant contributions to the engineering profession. Honorees needed at least 20 years of professional experience and 10 years of experience as full-time or emeritus engineering educators. In 1986, the first Distinguished Engineering Educator award was presented to Rosalia N. Andrews, Ph.D., associate professor of materials engineering at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Dr. Andrews was noted for maintaining excellence both inside and outside the classroom. Nominated by her dean, she was cited for “demonstrated excellence in scholarship through numerous sponsored-research projects, [and] contributions to the literature.” In addition, Dr. Andrews was a leader in professional and technical societies and encouraged her students to set high standards.

She advised the SWE student section at UAB, and its members were often key organizers of student events in its School of Engineering. She twice earned the university’s Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and Tau Beta Pi’s Outstanding Engineering Professor of the Year, among other honors.


SWE issues 19 distinct awards through its recognition program to women across the globe. But its award for Distinguished Service is one of several reserved for SWE members only. Created in 2000 — the 50th anniversary of the Society — it honors a SWE member whose contributions have positively affected SWE at all levels; and a member who has demonstrated dedication and enthusiasm for the Society and its mission.

This award recognizes up to five members each year, whose involvement has been focused in areas not recognized by other SWE individual awards or member grade. The first recipients were innovators in their fields and especially in SWE, lending their knowledge to create budget and fundraising committees, membership campaigns, fund and career development programs, and national conference (as it was called at the time) programming.

Recipients of this first service award had devoted at least 20 years of active service to SWE or had been a senior member for eight years. Claire M. Shortall, F.SWE; Mary Rogers, F.SWE; and SWE past presidents Lt. Col. Arminta J. Harness, F.SWE (Ret.); Carolyn F. Phillips, P.E., F.SWE; and Ada I. Pressman, P.E., F.SWE, represented the first of many Distinguished Service Award recipients.

Distinguished Service Award

Shortall, key organizer, charter member, past president of the Princeton University Student Section, the Louisiana (now Baton Rouge) Section, and the Greater New Orleans Section, devoted 30 years of service to SWE. Known for her fiscal acumen, she was treasurer for three years and helped SWE in all aspects of finances, including budgeting, analysis, cash management, and fiscal planning. Shortall served on the board of trustees and held other leadership posts. She became a life member in 1982.

Career guidance and fund development were important to Rogers, and her efforts led SWE to approve a fund development committee. Rogers joined SWE in 1976, shortly after being hired by Lockheed Missiles and Space. She served the San Francisco Bay Area Section, later called the Santa Clara Valley Section, in various capacities — treasurer, auditor, and second vice president, among others. She initiated a two-week experiential program with the local Girl Scouts that brought 70 girls from across the United States to a university campus and introduced them to science and technology fields. The program required strong guidance, support, and funding. Rogers used her expertise to raise money, develop workshops, and document their progress, which laid the groundwork for SWE to incorporate these techniques in its work.

Unable to land a job with an engineering firm after earning an aeronautical engineering degree, Harness took her skills to the Air Force, becoming the first woman engineer to join. After 24 years, she retired as a lieutenant colonel with a number of awards and citations to her credit. She then took a civilian position as manager of laboratory planning with Westinghouse Hanford Company, retiring after five years. Harness became an active SWE member in 1965, and was a Fellow and life member of the Society. Her service to SWE included stints as Society president, vice president, leadership of several sections, and member of the archives committee, among others. Harness later became a sculptor and designed and sculpted the SWE Resnik Challenger Medal in 1991.

A former health and safety consultant, Phillips retired in 1999 from the Shell Oil Co. after a 25-year career with the company. She joined SWE a year after graduating from college and held many leadership and committee positions on the section and Society levels, including the executive committee, Society president, vice president, and secretary, as well as on the board of trustees, which she also served as president.

Pressman, a mechanical engineer, went to work for the Bechtel Corporation as a power control systems engineer after graduating with her degree in 1950, and joined SWE as a charter member of the Cleveland Section in 1954. Pressman excelled at Bechtel, becoming an expert in combustion control and burner management in power plants. She received SWE’s Achievement Award in 1976 in recognition of her technical accomplishments. She was involved in SWE before and after receiving the award and was instrumental in the Society’s growth as an organization. She served SWE on the Society level, holding several leadership positions on the executive committee, nominating committee, Achievement Award committee, and advisory committee, among others. Pressman was the Society’s first “three pin” recipient, having garnered the Achievement Award, past president, and Fellow pins.


SWE presented a new award in 2005: Emerging Leader. The award was created to honor any woman engineer who has been actively engaged in an engineering or technology profession, and has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills as an individual that resulted in significant accomplishments. Recipients were required to have 10 to 15 years of cumulative engineering experience.

SWE initially designated specific fields for which future leaders could be recognized: academia; manufacturing and construction; procurement/logistics; product research, design, and engineering (sponsored by Intel); quality; safety, health, and environment; sales and marketing; and systems engineering (sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton).

Considered a midcareer award, it was a direct response to industry requests to recognize women who have achieved and demonstrated outstanding technical excellence as an individual resulting in significant accomplishments in one or more of those areas. Names of specific fields changed slightly between 2005 and 2011, and the criteria changed in 2012 to remove the specific fields as award recipients have diverse work experience covering many categories.

Semahat S. Demir, Ph.D., was one of the first seven women to earn this honor. She received the first Emerging Leader Award in Academia for her work as a professor and researcher at The University of Memphis and The University of Tennessee, Memphis, and as National Science Foundation program director for Biomedical Engineering & Research to Aid Persons with Disabilities. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Dr. Demir earned her Ph.D. from Rice University and a postdoc from Johns Hopkins University.

SWE may present a maximum of 10 awards in this category each year. In addition to Dr. Demir, others who received one of the first Emerging Leader Awards were:

  • Jan Garrett-Hoffman, Ph.D., technical lead and solutions architect with IBM E&TS Aerospace and Defense Sector, IBM Corp.
  • Rachel Hutter, P.E., director, Attractions Engineering Services and Quality Assurance with Walt Disney World Company
  • Mindy Koch, environmental, health, and safety manager with Intel in New Mexico
  • Kelly L. Orr, facility manager, Greenville Engine Center at Caterpillar Inc.
  • Tamara (Tami) Pippert, lead/expert marketing product manager with Agilent Technologies
  • Holly J. Teig, distribution services consultant with Caterpillar Logistics Services Inc.

Emerging Leader Award

Although these women represented different engineering disciplines, each shared a common trait: outstanding leadership that was reflected in their career advancement and acknowledged by SWE.

Entrepreneur Award Cheryl CollariniDeciding to pursue a degree in a male-dominated profession such as engineering can be daunting in and of itself. But to take that degree and choose to chart your own career path apart from the traditional corporate and academic arenas by becoming an entrepreneur is no small feat. SWE honors these women with its Entrepreneur Award. Introduced in 2001, it recognizes the woman who has managed to start and/or maintain her own engineering, scientific, or technology-based business for at least five years, and in doing so, serves as a role model to all women who have ever risked financial security for the possibility of uncertain rewards.

SWE’s first Entrepreneur Award was presented to Cheryl Collarini, a licensed petroleum engineer. She started her career with Mobil Oil but left in 1985 to form Collarini Engineering Inc., a Greater New Orleans reserve appraisal firm. Her expertise includes reservoir evaluation, project management, and consulting services covering the entire spectrum of upstream oil and gas activities.


The Fellow Grade is an honor conferred on SWE members with at least 20 years of professional membership in recognition of continuous service to the advancement of women in the engineering profession. SWE leaders determine the maximum number of recipients each year based on membership statistics.

The inaugural Fellow Grade class in 1980 included eight women from a wide range of scientific and engineering backgrounds: consultant and instructor, architect, senior industrial hygienist, and program engineer, among others. They worked in academic, publishing, oil, architecture, and engineering environments and represented SWE’s standard of professional excellence. The recipients included:

  • Aileen Cavanagh, consultant and instructor in management policy at Boston University
  • Betty P. Davey, highway project engineer with the Colorado Department of Highways
  • Elsie Eaves, P.E., retired publications manager of the Engineering News-Record and Construction Methods and Equipment, both under the umbrella of the business news department at McGraw Hill Company
  • Lt. Col. Arminta J. Harness, retired manager of laboratory planning with Westinghouse Hanford Company and retired lieutenant colonel, U.S. Air Force
  • Lillian S. Leenhouts, partner and architect with Willis and Lillian Leenhouts, FAIA, Architects
  • Naomi J. McAfee, manager, design assurance, Systems and Research and Development divisions with Westinghouse Electric Corp.
  • Carolyn F. Phillips, P.E., responsible for the eastern region office of safety and industrial hygiene, health, safety, and environment at Shell Oil Company
  • Elizabeth I. Plunkett, program engineer, Noise Technology Laboratory at The Boeing Company

Eaves received “the very first” fellow membership card as a charter member of the New York Section since 1950.

SWE's Highest Awards: A Look Back award


Just five years old, the Global Leadership Award commends up to three women who each have a minimum of 15 years of professional experience and who have worked in and led an internationally based engineering, scientific, or technology-based business or organization. A woman in this capacity is deemed to be a role model to women engineers and technologists worldwide. First presented in 2014, three women earned this distinction:

  • Rita Bowser, vice president, new plant project advancement at Westinghouse Electric Company. She spearheads new projects to expand the application of Westinghouse’s AP1000® plant technology to broader markets. She previously served Westinghouse internationally with leadership assignments in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
  • Anne Coté, director, global device business quality for Kimberly-Clark’s medical device division. She has led the quality operations for five major Kimberly-Clark businesses consisting of some 50 manufacturing sites in more than 15 countries in Asia, Europe, and Mexico.
  • Suzanne R. Davidson, technical lead, Joint Station Local Area Network at Boeing Defense, Space and Security. She provides leadership for all international partner integration testing and requirements for the Joint Station LAN.

SWE Global Leadership Award

The Global Team Leadership Award recognizes a geographically diverse team making outstanding technical contributions in the field of engineering and/or technical management demonstrating innovative thinking to overcome global challenges. It is presented annually to a team with women in technical leadership roles that meets or exceeds project objectives. SWE may award up to three separate team awards each year.

Presented first in 2016, the Rockwell Automation Insider Risk Team, led by Dawn Cappelli, was its first recipient. Cappelli, a certified information systems security professional, joined Rockwell in 2013, to build its insider risk program. According to the award citation, the team was recognized “for bringing previously isolated departments and functions together to overcome the cultural, legal, and technical challenges of global intellectual property theft and cyber sabotage.”

Rockwell Automation Insider Risk Team with Global Team Leadership Award

Cindy Hoover, F.SWE, vice president, 737 MAX Program at Spirit AeroSystems Inc.; Emily Howard, Ph.D., senior technical fellow with The Boeing Company; and Carol J. Weber, senior engineering project team leader in the Product Development and Global Technology Division of Caterpillar Inc., each received SWE’s first-ever Prism Award in 2014.

Prism Award recipients 2019

SWE recognized that these women had charted their own paths throughout their 15-plus-year careers, providing leadership in technology fields and professional organizations along the way. As per the award’s criteria, each demonstrated outstanding management skills, exhibited a clear understanding of how her career path contributed to her achievements, and has worked to enrich the conversation of what it means to be a successful woman in STEM. They also have been involved in activities that support SWE’s mission. The Society presents up to five of these awards each year.

Hoover, an electrical engineer by training, is FY20 SWE president. She has worked in a variety of roles, including program management, Six Sigma, operations management, and site management. Weber, also an electrical engineer, is the current SWE Tucson Section president. At Caterpillar, she was tasked with developing processes and procedures to facilitate innovative and cutting-edge technologies in machine automation, operator assistance, and site-level systems. Dr. Howard has a background in cognitive psychology. She joined Rockwell International (which later became part of Boeing) in 1988, where she has served as a technical leader and resource for engineers and scientists across the organization.


Judith A. Resnik, Ph.D., SWE senior member, was a NASA mission specialist and only the second American woman to travel into space. Her historic mission on Jan. 28, 1986, aboard the Challenger space shuttle was cut short when the shuttle exploded shortly after takeoff, killing the entire seven-member crew.

SWE sought to pay tribute to Dr. Resnik by creating an award in her honor. With consent from Dr. Resnik’s parents, the Resnik Challenger Medal was announced at the Society’s national convention (as they were called then) in 1986. It is awarded as merited for visionary engineering contributions to space exploration. Non-SWE members are eligible, and recipients must have practiced engineering for at least 10 years. Arminta Harness, SWE past president and an engineer turned sculptor, designed and sculpted the medal in the likeness of Dr. Resnik to preserve her memory and accomplishments.

Elfreda Chang, Ph.D., who worked in the Satellite Compulsion Section of The Aerospace Corporation, was the first to earn the medal, in 1991. In the throes of what was then a 25-year engineering career, Dr. Chang was a major contributor to improving the liquid rocket engine propellants used in operational satellite and launch vehicle propulsion systems. Her work, research, testing, and development minimized the danger of rupture in tubes and valves containing a highly flammable inorganic compound called hydrazine, which is often used as a rocket fuel.

Dr. Chang received the award during the SWE convention with Dr. Resnik’s parents in attendance. Including the medal conferred at the WE19 conference, a total of 21 Challenger Medals have been awarded.

SWE's Highest Awards: A Look Back award

Women who have forged successful careers often reach back to mentor others and ensure their progress. Men have also fulfilled this role, and SWE began to acknowledge their efforts in 1968 through the Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award, the second award established by SWE after its leadership elected to expand its recognition program.

Col. Clarence E. Davies accepts the Rodney D. Chipp Memorial AwardChipp was a well-regarded electrical engineer, who married chemical engineer Beatrice A. Hicks, SWE’s first president. Together they were tapped by the National Society of Professional Engineers to serve as project ambassadors. They embarked on a fact-finding goodwill tour of South America to determine the best ways to train American engineers to work and serve in other countries. They lectured worldwide on their findings.

The former director of engineering at DuMont TV founded his own communications-engineering company, Rodney D. Chipp and Associates, in 1961, where his wife, who was highly accomplished in her own right, became a consultant. Chipp supported her work and those of other women engineers.

When he died in 1966, Hicks sought to honor his memory. The award recognizes the work of a man — or company — who not only accepts and advances women in engineering, but also commits to increase gender diversity in the profession. Specifically, it acknowledges a man or a company that has increased the hiring or promotion of women engineers or women engineering students enrolled in a college or university; has encouraged, sponsored, and or developed professional training/development programs for women engineers; and has created an environment that supports women engineers’ full participation and acceptance in the engineering field.

The first Chipp Award went to Col. Clarence E. Davies, a building coordinator for and later executive director of the United Engineering Center. A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Davies worked at the New York-based center, an organization that housed the headquarters of 18 engineering societies. He also was secretary emeritus of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and wrote papers on management education, manufacturing, and other topics that appeared in ASME journals. A strong supporter of his alma mater, Davies also was recognized as a distinguished engineering educator and for his outstanding work in corporate or government engineering projects.


The aptly named Spark Award recognizes a person who has contributed to the advancement of women by mentoring those around them. The individual will have made a difference in the lives of many by influencing women at different levels — from high school through more senior levels in relation to their position.

Presented for the first time in 2015, the Spark Award honored recipients Lew Dennis, U.S. offshore area manager with Chevron Environmental Management Co; Shawn Emerson Simmons, Ph.D., environmental and permitting manager with Exxon Mobil Corp.; Lisa Gable, manager, Pathways for Experienced Technical Women with IBM Corp.; Barbara McAllister, deputy director of the Intel Corporation Diversity in Technology Initiative; and Jane Orsulak, director, mission analysis capability center, Raytheon Intelligence, Information, and Services.

Spark Award recipients

F. Suzanne Jenniches, F.SWE, gained a reputation for her engineering expertise and her generosity in mentoring other women. A SWE past president, Jenniches is a retired vice president and general manager with the Northrop Grumman Corp., which, in 2011 endowed the Suzanne Jenniches Upward Mobility Award to ensure the award continued without interruption.

Edit Martin and Suzanne Jenniches hold Suzanne Jenniches Upward Mobility AwardEstablished in 1989 as the Upward Mobility Award, it was created at the behest of then-SWE president Jenniches. It was initially underwritten by Westinghouse. In 1997, Northrop Grumman took over sponsorship, and in 2011 renamed the award to honor Jenniches’ groundbreaking work in the company’s electronic and environmental engineering section. The award recognizes a woman with at least 20 years of experience, who has succeeded in advancing within her organization to a significant management position such that she is able to influence the decision-making process and create a nurturing environment for other women in the workplace.

“The award places a much-needed focus on women who have achieved a significant position — whether as an academic dean, a government leader, or an industry vice president — and in doing so have achieved the power to create a nurturing environment for other women to rise within the organization,” said Jenniches in a fall 2011 article in SWE Magazine. She retired from Northrop Grumman in 2010.

Edith W. Martin, Ph.D., took home an Atmos clock and plaque when she received SWE’s first Upward Mobility Award in 1989. According to Jenniches, the clock symbolizes the wonders of engineering and the ability of women engineers to skillfully manage their time.

The Boeing Co. hired Dr. Martin in 1984 to keep the company at the forefront of technology. She advanced to vice president at the Boeing Aerospace and Electronics High Technology Center, becoming the first woman at Boeing to be a corporate vice president. She helped design the center and establish its goals. She was noted for her technical ability and management expertise, as well as being an advocate of science and engineering in the schools, encouraging all ages to become interested in STEM fields.

Four women were awarded the SWE Distinguished New Engineer award when it was introduced in 1979 to commend women engineers who have been actively engaged in engineering and SWE in the first 10 years of their careers. The 10-year mark is indicative of a commitment to the industry and allows women to gain sufficient engineering experience to pursue advanced positions and responsibilities within their fields.

Linda L. Vélez-Rodriguez, P.E., a civil engineer with the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority; Paula L. Loring, an information systems consultant with Arthur D. Little, a strategy, innovation, and technology consulting company; Karen Morrison, an aerospace engineer with NASA Johnson Space Center; and Carol J. Schamp, a department stamp engineer with TRW Defense and Space Systems, were the first to receive this award.

SWE Distinguished New Engineer Award


How to achieve a work/life balance has been an ongoing dilemma since women began to work outside of the home. SWE understood the challenges many women encountered in maintaining demanding and satisfying engineering careers and carving time for personal development, all while raising and nurturing their families.

Work/Life Integration Award Becky WhiteThe Work/Life Integration Award, originally called the Work/Life Balance Award, honors an individual who has been instrumental in establishing a landmark program for their organization to improve the ability of women engineers and other employees to integrate or balance the commitments of career, life, and family.

In so doing, he or she has shown a recognition of the need for employees to integrate these three facets of life. One award is presented annually as warranted.

It was first awarded in 2002 to Becky White, assistant vice president of traffic and transportation with Sain Associates. Then a young mother of two, White approached her company president to consider establishing a family-friendly work environment. She persuaded him to accompany her at a work/family forum, after which White led an advisory council at Sain to determine employees’ needs and develop policies that supported families. She negotiated a compressed workweek — a first for the company — and helped write family-friendly policies.


Part of SWE’s mission is to empower women to achieve their full potential. As the premier resource for women in engineering and technology seeking growth and advancement at all stages of their careers, SWE developed a recognition program at the university level to encourage support and investment in women studying engineering.

The SWE Outstanding Collegiate Member Award is presented to SWE collegiate members with at least two years of SWE membership who have made outstanding contributions to SWE, the engineering community, and their campuses. The nominator of this award must be a SWE collegiate member, collegiate section faculty advisor, or a SWE member in good standing. SWE may present up to 10 awards annually.

Eight young women pursuing degrees in an engineering field were nominated by SWE collegiate members for “outstanding efforts and leadership” as an undergraduate student, in their first or second year of university; an undergraduate in their third or fourth year of university; or as a graduate student. On their campuses, they often organized and spearheaded social and academic events, outreach activities, service projects, and professional development programs, among other initiatives. Many were actively involved in collegiate-level engineering societies, including SWE. The award was first presented in 2007.

Awarded to First- or Second-Year Student:

  • Casey Canfield, general engineering major, with a concentration in systems, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Amanda M. Wachtel, aerospace engineering major, The University of Alabama

Awarded to Third-Year Student or Senior:

  • Meredith Caldwell, mechanical engineering major, The University of Alabama
  • Talia Esser, industrial and systems engineering major, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Kristen Elizabeth Kesse, materials engineering major, University of Cincinnati
  • Priscila Silva-Araujo, industrial and systems engineering, University of Florida
  • Jennifer Vallero, mechanical engineering major, University of Colorado Boulder

Awarded to a Graduate Student:

  • Maria Accomando Edwards, chemical engineering major (B.S. and M.S.), The University of Alabama

SWE's Highest Awards: A Look Back award

SWE's Highest Awards: A Look Back award

Academic advising is often integral to a university student’s success. SWE recognized this important role with its Outstanding Faculty Advisor award. It is awarded to a leader who has made an outstanding contribution to a SWE collegiate section as an advisor. The nominator must be a SWE professional, or a collegiate member who belongs to the section the nominee currently advises.

Outstanding Collegiate Advisor and Outstanding SWE Counselor AwardsCathy Pieronek, J.D., earned the first Outstanding Faculty Advisor award in 2007, for her dedication to supporting and mentoring undergraduate women in her roles as faculty advisor to the collegiate section, as director of academic affairs, and as director of the women’s engineering program at the University of Notre Dame College of Engineering. Pieronek was instrumental in developing initiatives across campus that increased the retention of women by nearly 30%.

Likewise, counselors support students in all aspects of their educational journeys. The Outstanding SWE Counselor award honors a member who has made an outstanding contribution to a SWE collegiate section as a counselor. The nominator must be a SWE collegiate member in good standing or a faculty advisor and belong to the section the SWE counselor currently advises. One award is presented annually.

Jennifer Chen Morikawa became the counselor of the SWE University of Michigan–Ann Arbor Collegiate Section in 2002. An alumna of both the school and the SWE section, Morikawa was able to forge connections between the Detroit and collegiate sections, increasing both membership and participation in a range of professional, social, and education-related activities. She is a global paint and polymers manufacturing engineer with General Motors. She received the first Outstanding SWE Counselor Award in 2007.

To date, SWE has presented nearly 1,100 individual awards to women — and men — who embrace the rewards and challenges of the engineering profession and exemplify excellence in the work they do. The individual awards have been a part of SWE’s DNA since its inception and continue to show the world the value and contributions of women engineers.

Note: Women mentioned in this story held their respective positions at the time they received their awards. Some have since been promoted within their organizations, have left to pursue other opportunities, have retired, or are deceased.

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  • SWE's Highest Awards: A Look Back award

    Marsha Lynn Bragg, SWE Contributor

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