SWE has over 300 collegiate Sections and Affiliates, all who strive to empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion. While these shared goals and values unite us, each SWE group also has an original story and unique point of view.
SWE HQ is excited to spotlight one of our newest Affiliate groups, Chandler Gilbert Community College. We spoke with CGCC’s Faculty Advisor Nichole Neal so we can get to know them and learn about how their Affiliate operates. Welcome to SWE, Chandler Gilbert Community College!
How did you become involved in starting a SWE Section or Affiliate at your school?
I ran across an article about Springfield Technical Community College obtaining Affiliate status with SWE. I contacted their advisor, Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, and we had a conversation about establishing an affiliate at CGCC.
Can you describe one of your group’s typical meetings or events?
A typical meeting begins with an encouraging song, member introductions, a 20-minute guest speaker, and 10 minutes for questions. We then use the remainder of the time for announcements and membership updates.
COVID-19 has led to most college classes and activities taking place online. How have you adapted to leading your group virtually?
COVID-19 has had an impact on our ability to recruit members and officers. However, our existing members and officers are dedicated to SWE! CGC SWE was the first club/organization on campus to host a virtual club meeting in the Spring 2020 when the college went fully remote after Spring Break. As the advisor, I have had to take on the role of cheerleader to keep my students, officers, and members motivated.
Despite COVID-19 and having screen fatigue, we have had virtual speakers during meetings from Northrop Grumman, Intel, and AZ Science Center. We also had a 15-minute virtual dance party with a DJ at the end of the meeting to celebrate becoming a recognized affiliate. We hosted a virtual resume writing workshop and a dress for success virtual fashion show.
Finally, our officers researched microaggressions in the classroom over the summer and created a student and faculty survey that was sent out at the beginning of the summer. We used the work by delivering CGCC’s first student-facilitated faculty workshop, “Dismantling Microaggressions in STEM,” hosted by CGC SWE, where we had over 30 faculty members attend the virtual conference and a student panel. The entire workshop was led by CGC SWE officers, members, and engineering students. Kellie Phong, CGC SWE president, debriefed the college president on the student-led conference and he has requested that we incorporate an annual student-facilitated faculty workshop/trainings. We are hoping to submit a workshop proposal to train other faculty and SWE sections/affiliates on how to plan and organize similar workshops facilitated by students for the next SWE conference!
How does your school or community benefit from having a SWE Section or Affiliate?
Our school benefits from having a SWE Affiliate because it has highlighted our female STEM students and allies on our campus and our community college district. We are motivated as an affiliate to begin outreach to our local high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. Also, we are planning on working with Arizona State University, where the major of our students transfer once completed at CGCC, to develop a joint SWE event. Our female students have an established network before they walk on the ASU campus with other SWE members!
Do you have any advice for other engineering students looking to start a new SWE Section or Affiliate at their school?
My advice for other engineering students looking to start a new SWE Section or Affiliate would be to speak with your local SWE Sections or Affiliates, including the professional chapter, in your area. Attend one of their meetings. Use the SWE website as a resource to gather information. Hold informational and interest sessions to educate students, faculty and staff about SWE. Your workload may be great and you may not see large participation numbers but if you impact one student or SWE becomes a known name on campus, then your work was not in vain. STAY THE COURSE.