2020 WE Local Des Moines Recognizes 20 Award Recipients

SWE celebrates the winners of WE Local Des Moines virtually as WE Local was canceled in April due to COVID-19.
WE Local

This past April, we were unable to come together to recognize the twenty Award Recipients at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. However, SWE found another solution and that was to recognize each of them… via a blog. To learn more about each of the Awards and categories, visit the official WE Local Award announcement blog post.

Group Awards

Joint Professional/Collegiate Event Award

The first group award is the Joint Professional/Collegiate Event Award. The Joint Professional/Collegiate Event Award is jointly bestowed upon a professional SWE Group and a Collegiate SWE group who have planned and implemented a joint SWE event between the two groups. Congratulations to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and Ford Motor Company!

To prepare for WE18, the University of MinnesotaTwin Cities and Ford Motor Company hosted a mock interview event. This event allowed conference attendees to learn about and practice interviewing skills but to also receive feedback. As a result, several members were offered internships as well as full-time positions. Notably, members’ average hourly intern rate exceeded the University’s rate by $4.20 and average salaries by $6,790.

Outstanding Professional Development Event Award

The next award is for an Outstanding Professional Development Event. This award recognizes a group or groups who plan and carry out a high-quality professional development event to help women achieve their professional goals. Congratulations, Society of Women Engineers at SWE Los Angeles Professional Section, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and SWE Wisconsin!

SWE Los Angeles Professional Section one-day event, Professional Development Conference (PDC), is filled with an array of speakers, panel discussions and scholarship presentations. With 200 attendees from over 15 companies, the event helps with the growth of SWE’s LA membership by exposing organizations that may not be familiar with SWE. The profits received allow SWE-LA to give five to ten scholarships annually ranging between $1,000-$1,500 each.

Recognizing the need to help underclassmen prepare for the fall career fair, the Society of Women Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison made the decision to host a prep event at the end of the spring semester. With a $1,000 grant, 60 students and five companies attended the first prep night, at no cost. By receiving feedback on interview materials, students then had over four months to prepare for the event.

With over 50 attendees, “Spring Forward with SWE” is a one-day event hosted by SWE-Wisconsin. With two facility tours, six professional development sessions and a networking event prior to the scholarship recognition dinner, this event served professionals as well as collegians from six universities. This event allows for section recruitment to fill roles for the upcoming fiscal year. Spring Forward was also selected to be published on SWE’s All Together blog platform.

Outstanding Outreach Event Award

The next award is for an Outstanding Outreach Event. The Outstanding Outreach Event Award recognizes a group or groups who plan and carry out a high-quality outreach event to inspire future engineers. Congratulations, Emerson Women in STEM Marshalltown and Wichita Professional Section!

Around the world, Emerson hosts half-day “We Love STEM” events with each site hosting their own event. Over 2,800 participants and 1,500 volunteers make the objective of “educating participants about STEM concepts in a fun and interactive way” possible. Emerson’s Women in STEM, Marshalltown hosted over 140 attendees where hands-on activities were chosen to demonstrate “what a chain reaction is and how a single factor can change an outcome.”

The Engineering Expo hosted by SWE’s Wichita Professional Section is a free one-day event that provides a variety of hands-on activities that allows students, K-8, to explore the idea of possibility. For the first time, the Expo reached over 4,100 attendees with over 50% student attendees. The publicity received was outstanding from demographically placed billboards to three television station interviews. Lastly, several returning sponsors plan to participate again in 2020.

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Partner Award

The final group award is for the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Partner. The D&I Partner Award recognizes groups that promote diversity and inclusion and shows commitment to SWE’s mission and goals. Nominees must fit one of the following categories: Diversity partner group (such as AISES, NSBE, SHPE, etc.), Employee Resource Group, or Small Company. Congratulations, University of Illinois Extension – 4-H!

With a mission that blends into SWE’s, 4-H allows SWE’s Central Illinois to widen their footprint, increase membership and prevent volunteer burnout. 4-H has supported many events with not only logistical assistance but also volunteer support. For example, the STEM Teen Teacher program is an event where teens over 13 teach over 30 lessons on STEM principles to students between the ages of 5-12 with the assistance of a 4-H educator.

Congratulations, Group Award Recipients!


Individual Award Recipients – Collegiate

Rising Star Award

The Rising Star Award recognizes SWE collegiate members with less than 2 years of SWE membership at the end of the previous fiscal year who have made outstanding contributions to SWE, the engineering community, their campus, and the community. Congratulations, Madison Best and Nora Dunleavy!

As a junior studying Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Madison Best is creating a supportive STEM environment. Her passion for SWE is evident as she attended 33 events in one year. Madison took part in a research program where she found ways to produce fuel using plastic waste; this is where she discovered her passion for renewable resources. Madison has made the Dean’s List, every semester.

Nora Dunleavy is a sophomore majoring in Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As an incoming freshman, Nora found her SWE calling at “Little Sisters Weekend” where she treasured the support. The following year, Nora coordinated the event. Nora has served on the Team Tech Committee where she researched and designed adaptive technology. Nora’s passion for sharing knowledge is seen through her commitment to strengthening technical confidence.

Congratulations, Collegians!


Individual Awards – SWE Professional Members

WE Local New ELiTE Award

We recognize SWE Professional members starting with the WE Local New ELiTE award. ELiTE is an acronym for Emerging Leader in Technology & Engineering. This award honors women who have demonstrated outstanding technical performance, as well as leadership in SWE and the community, in the first ten years of their career. Congratulations, Alison Bergmann, Michelle Boehm, P.E., Kristina Ellis, Katelyn Lichte, Sneha Narayan and Heather Wiest, Ph.D.!

Alison Bergmann was a Product Design Engineer at John Deere for 4.5 years before becoming a Strategic Supply Management Specialist where she works on global projects. Alison has found success in a large part of her education (MEM) and SWE leadership roles. Starting as a freshman volunteer to serving as FY18-FY19 Awards Chair, Alison is now a SWE Senator. She also actively participates in Church Mission trips and United Way programs.    

As a Civil Engineer at Cillessen & Sons, Inc., Michelle Boehm, P.E. is making a mark in the traffic control industry. From designing a 46-mile state highway detour to applying her engineering acumen in the bid proposal process to building the organization’s intern program, Michelle is devoted to her future and others’. Michelle also volunteers for several of SWE Wichita’s outreach initiatives and is currently the Chair-Elect of the Program Development Grant Committee.

Kristina George Ellis’ passion for Industrial Engineering is founded in seeing the value of efficient systems and communications. As the Business Development Associate Senior at American Electric Power (AEP), Kristina assists in all business development activities. She has served two terms as the Tulsa North-Eastern Section President and has held two Society leadership roles as WE Local Advisory Board Chair Advisor and Leadership Coaching Committee Chair-Elect.

Katelyn Lichte is a Production Engineer at Corteva Agriscience where she is recognized for her expertise and contributions in maintenance and reliability. In her new role, Katelyn is heavily involved in regulatory and legal projects for a new process that is heavily chemistry-based. Katelyn’s SWE experience began in college which founded her passion for supporting the NextGen, and she currently serves as the Outreach Chair-Elect for FY20.

Sneha Narayan currently works at PricewaterhouseCoopers as an Engagement Manager where she applies her various master’s degrees and skills to deliver large-scale initiatives. Sneha leads transformational projects to solve problems by implementing analytic solutions as well as the organizational strategy in hopes to drive down costs. Her SWE Experience began in 2010 but since 2018, Sneha has been a Leadership Coaching Committee Coach where she supports nine SWE sections.

Heather Wiest, Ph.D. is a Mechanical Engineer at Blue Origin where she designs fluid systems to support the testing and launching of rockets and their engines. In FY18, Heather served as the Leadership Coaching Committee Chair and in FY19, she was elected as a SWE Senator. By leading and participating in STEM events including mentoring students, Heather’s STEM passion is an endless opportunity to strive to help others achieve.

WE Local ELiTE Award

The WE Local ELiTE Award honors women engineers who have been actively engaged in an engineering or technology profession and have ten to fifteen years of cumulative engineering experience. Congratulations, Jeri Lynn Metzger and Jessica Stitt! 

As a first-line manager with Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems in the Launch and Operations department, Jeri Lynn Metzger manages up to 12 engineers and technicians. As a student, she began a co-op at Ball Aerospace. Shortly after, Jeri started her career at Northrop while completing her MS in Astronautical Engineering. Jeri’s committed to giving back to the NextGen as she remains active in both university and experienced recruiting for Northrop.

As a Project Manager at EFT Analytics, Jessica Stitt brings a unique manufacturing perspective to implement agile SCRUM processes. Starting at Spirit AeroSystems, Jessica was a member of the Lean Manufacturing team where she led implementation projects by identifying root causes and deploying a team to address the cause. After ten years in the aircraft industry, Jessica chose to join EFT Analytics, a Koch Industries subsidiary, a software development company.

WE Local Integrator Award

The WE Local Integrator Award honors individuals who have been instrumental in establishing a program for his or her organization to improve the ability of women engineers and other employees to integrate or balance work and family responsibilities. In doing so, he or she has demonstrated recognition of the need for employees to integrate work, family and personal interests. Congratulations, Heather Ulrich!

As a project leader at Caterpillar, Heather Ulrich is not only leading project synergy but is also a mom of three. Heather, along with peers, revamped a dissolving group to create Caterpillar Moms Employee Network. The group supports 493 moms-to-be and moms of all ages around the world. To improve employee retention, Heather works with human resources to share concerns surrounding maternity leave, breastfeeding and a flexible work environment.

Engaged Advocate Award

The Engaged Advocate Award award honors individuals within the following categories who have contributed to the advancement or acceptance of women in engineering: in K-12 Educator, Collegiate Educator/SWE Faculty Advisor/SWE Counselor, Entrepreneur, or STEM Professional. Congratulations, Gretchen Hein and Martha McCabe!

As a senior lecturer at Michigan Technological University, Dr. Gretchen Hein teaches thermodynamics and fluid mechanics where her approach is popular among students. She’s published 90+ papers to improve engineering education as well as developed two KEEN ICE curriculums that use entrepreneurial mindsets. Dr. Hein is also a faculty advisor where she shares section tenets and allows students to lead; if they go adrift, she can be relied on.

Martha McCabe serves as the Executive Director of the Kansas City (KC) STEM Alliance – a network of educators, businesses and organizations that work to inspire a robust STEM workforce. In her first year, Martha secured a multimillion-dollar grant to build a more diverse healthcare workforce. Martha is working to create a cohesive and collaborative environment which includes increasing student enrollment as well as tripling the growth of the FIRST® Robotics Competition.

Congratulations, Award Recipients!


Our Guests

Finally, at the Awards dinner, SWE recognizes a special group called “Our Guests” as they attended the Awards ceremony with the Award Recipient. However, for blog purposes, “Our Guests” are those people who provided the support, encouragement, and motivation to help our Award Recipients get to where they are today. This can include mentors, supervisors, family members, friends (four-legged included!) and others. However, since we cannot come together, a PDF version of the slideshow will have to do. Therefore, thank you for also supporting SWE’s mission work!

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