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SWE Member Stories: 2021 ALWE Program Recap

Gisella Lamas, SWE member and chemical engineer, shares her experience from the 2021 Academic Leadership for Women In Engineering (ALWE) program that was held virtually from January 8-9.
Swe Member Stories: 2021 Alwe Program Recap
Gisella Lamas_SWE Member
Gisella Lamas

The year of 2020 was tough on all of us. It was particularly hard for us in academia because of the quick changes in delivery modalities, that is, in person, hybrid or online classes. A lot of people who are not in academia are used to changes and quick ones, but for us, all modifications are done in advance – 1 or 2 years in advance, if not more.

I was genuinely happy to be accepted to the ALWE program, but I was not thrilled to participate in it when the time came. There had been so many events online and this was another one, over the weekend. ALWE was done via zoom which is something we learned to use a lot in 2020. I showed up with no great expectations, despite the good words about the program that I received from my colleagues.

The 2021 ALWE program had an interesting start as we were placed in Breakout rooms to discuss the main goal or question that we expected to be answered by the program. We shared it with a couple of colleagues and soon enough we realized we had remarkably similar questions and goals. It was amazing to see how we were in different institutions, from different backgrounds, never interacted with each other prior to the program and, yet, we had so much in common. It was a great start and a good sign of what else was to follow in the program.

I was blown away by the first session: “Inclusive Leadership During Times of Change” by Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd. It was all I needed to hear. Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd had a great impact on me with candid words and elegant behavior. I was really inspired by the presentation because Dr. Boyd reassured me of the importance of making my presence known in different environments. “Engineer is what I am and what I do”. This is how Dr. Boy started this presentation.ALWE Program

Despite the pandemic situation, despite changing our lives (upside down), despite losing loving ones to the disease and despite the ongoing injustice that is happening in the country, we must bring our best to the table. Dr. Boyd also talked about the importance of having allies in this journey: an advisor, a mentor and a sponsor. All I can say is that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of the ALWE cohort of 2020-2021. I feel empowered and refreshed by attending it. There were so many incredible speakers and discussions. I enjoyed every second of it. This program gave me tools and resources to continue in my career in Academia and to accept leadership positions without second guessing them or myself. “I earned this t-shirt” (university jersey) and I understand the responsibilities to bring inclusive leadership to my workplace.

2021 ALWE virtual program
The 2021 ALWE virtual program learns about Negotiating During Institutional Uncertainty
About the ALWE Program

To address the need for more women in academic leadership positions in engineering and to foster the professional growth of women in academia, SWE developed the Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering (ALWE) program.

The 2021 ALWE program took place virtually, with a concentrated program from  January 8-9, in addition to year-round virtual programming in the following months. The program hosted 54 early and mid-career women working as engineering faculty across the United States and five countries.

The overarching purpose of ALWE is to provide female academics in engineering with tangible skills and knowledge needed to pursue, acquire and gainfully maintain institutional leadership positions at a university. SWE also hopes this program provides women with skills to help them grow personally as leaders.

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  • Gisella Lamas

    Dr. Gisella Lamas is a Brazilian/Peruvian biochemical/environmental engineer. She works as a Lecturer at the University of Kentucky – Paducah Extended campus. Gisella has been a SWE member since 2012. She is actively involved in various SWE committees and the SWE Indigenous Peoples AG. She is the 2024 chair-elect for SWE WIA, faculty advisor and SWENext counselor for UK Paducah. Her Indigenous roots come from Northern and Central Peru.