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Living Without Limits and Refired About SWE

As part of the Late Career & Retiree Affinity Group's spotlight month, Vicki Johnson (she/her) reflects on her retirement journey and connections with other LCR AG members.
SWE Spotlight: Late Career & Retiree Affinity Group

The creation of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Late Career and Retiree Affinity Group (LCR AG) — originally the Senior Member Engagement Affinity Group — got me refired about SWE. A Life Member, I wasn’t going anywhere, but I certainly wasn’t engaged at any level as I neared the end of my professional career. Going to work most days during COVID-19 (I had a project with hardware in the factory, so had to go in) took the joy out of life. A decision to call it quits on Aug. 13, 2020, removed a very big limit on my life.

The Queen Bee

Living Without Limits and Refired About SWE
Queen Bee with the car hooked up and ready to go. Teaching myself to drive her was a challenging experience.

My SWE LCR AG network was very helpful in making good decisions buying and then learning to operate the Queen Bee. When I told my LCR AG friends that I was looking at RVs, they all told me to talk with Fran Stuart since she and her husband had been big RVers. In addition, Fran is a long-time SWE member in the Central New Mexico section who has much experience in local, region, and society leadership positions. Fran’s advice was invaluable. Fran’s RV parking spot and RV garage with hookups provide an excellent stopover going between Wichita and Phoenix. On my first trip through, I commented that my hands were so banged up from managing the outdoor RV systems. Fran noted that women aren’t as good as men about wearing gloves and gifted me a pair of brand-new leather gloves. I still thankfully wear those gloves when working outside the Queen Bee. They don’t look new anymore!

After two years of spending the winter in Arizona and returning to Wichita for the rest of the year, my sister Valerie invited me to move to a great townhouse in Fountain Hills, Ariz. Having a sister who is a realtor is handy at a time like this! Knowing that freedom is important and the road still beckons, the deal included storing the Queen Bee in Arizona and traveling back to Kansas and points beyond in the Queen Bee in the summers. My townhouse is four miles from Val and Mike.

Living Without Limits and Refired About SWEWhen I am living in a fixed structure, I really enjoy having my cat, BC, there. The same is true when living in the RV. BC has turned out to be a great RV cat. He doesn’t like it when the Queen Bee makes noises before we go (I have figured out how to reduce some of the noises), but once we’re parked, he comes out and seems to enjoy hanging with me in the Queen Bee. One big change in the car since we’ve been RV’ing is that he sits on my leg and looks out the window when we drive to and from the Queen Bee; he used to hide under the driver’s seat. He does hide under the bed in the back when the Queen Bee is running or threatens to be ready to run.




Refiring With the LCR AG

The LCR AG has the advantage of being a distributed group, which meets virtually or at SWE conferences. A little experimentation was required to find the best way to stay connected and participate in all the meetings. A Verizon cellphone and a Consumer Cellular cellphone (with AT&T and T-Mobile networks) give me options for locations where one carrier may not work well. Many of the FY22 & FY23 Leadership Team meetings, and even some quarterly all-member meetings, were run from my kitchen table in the RV while serving as the lead of the LCR AG. I have participated in so many more meetings from that kitchen table while serving as the Local Section Engagement Subgroup lead in FY20 & FY21. Being free to participate from anywhere has freed me from the constraints of being at home and allows me to live without limits! And being able to remain active in the LCR AG keeps me refired, not retired!

Living Without Limits and Refired About SWEOne of the benefits of traveling around in an RV is winding up in places where other SWE members are. Jan Williams (a long-time SWE Central New Mexico Section member and the original LCR AG Conference Engagement Subgroup lead whom I met through the LCR AG) and I camped in the same RV park outside Indianapolis to attend WE21 and then stayed in the same park in St. Louis on our way home. This past summer I traveled to Minden, Nev., to visit friends and came home by way of Orange, Calif. (near Anaheim). It was wonderful to meet up with Charlotte Wagner, one of the two original leaders of the LCR AG. After I met Charlotte for a delicious dinner, she visited the Queen Bee and BC at the nearby campground. Charlotte’s comment was, “The Queen Bee is so big!” It really feels that way standing outside next to her. I am not as aware of the size sitting in the driver’s seat!

An RV has turned into an essential tool to enjoy life, see the United States, be refired about SWE, and “Live Without Limits!”


  • Vicki Johnson, Ph.D., F.SWE

    As a 28-year Life Member of SWE and, for all practical purposes, a SWE dropout, Dr. Vicki S. Johnson (she/her) became involved in the formation of the Late Career and Retiree Affinity Group (LCR AG) in 2019 and has been involved ever since. She spent two years as lead of the Local Section Engagement subgroup, two years as lead of the LCR AG, and is now starting into her first of two years as the LCR AG newsletter editor. Dr. Johnson spent 42 years working in aerospace in government, industry, academia, and the private sector. She has a BS in aerospace engineering, a MS in flight sciences, a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, and an MBA in technology management.