Atg Logo Vector

Building Community with CCASE and the SWE Everett Community College Affiliate

Learn how SWE's Community College Affiliate Support and Expansion (CCASE) Program helped the SWE Everett Community College Affiliate take their membership and activities to the next level.
SWE Everett Community College affiliate members

Community college students are often excluded from conversations around broadening participation in STEM, particularly in the fields of engineering and computer science (ECS).

To better understand this issue and provide a solution, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) conducted a phased research study of ECS transfer students to understand the success of women and minority students on this pathway towards a baccalaureate degree.

Findings from this research led to the development of SWE’s Community College Affiliate Support and Expansion (CCASE) Program. CCASE aims to increase support for SWE Community College Affiliates across the United States with direct financial and membership incentives to help facilitate professional development and outreach activities.

One of those SWE Affiliates is at Everett Community College (EvCC) in Everett, Wash. With 17 years of experience, dedicated faculty advisor Kristine Washburn shares insights into fostering community with students and highlights how CCASE elevated their engagement with SWE.

Please Share a Brief History of Your SWE Affiliate. When Was It Founded? How Many Members Do You Have?

Our SWE Affiliate started in February 2007, about 1.5 years after I started teaching at Everett Community College. The engineering instructor was excited that the college had hired a woman to teach physics and was hoping I’d be willing to start a SWE Affiliate to support the handful of women engineering majors we had.

At this point, I’ve been a SWE faculty advisor for 17 years! Each year, we have four to six student leaders who consistently come to meetings and help plan and run events. There are always another six to 10 students who come to a handful of meetings and events.

How Often Do You Meet? Can You Describe a Typical Meeting?

We started out doing biweekly meetings, but I noticed students could never make it to meetings near the ends of quarters because of their piled-up schoolwork. Some of them felt guilty and would stop coming entirely because they felt bad for ghosting us at the end of a quarter. So, we shifted to meet more often early in the quarter and less often towards the end.

In our 10-week quarter, we typically meet in weeks 1, 2, 4, 7, and in finals week. Some meetings are business-focused, especially if we’re planning a big event. Some meetings are a one-hour workshop where we all agree to spend the hour getting something important done, like applying for internships, and we hold each other accountable for not getting distracted.

Some are a mix of light business and hanging out and chatting. And some meetings are a potluck and board games at my house. As a community college where everyone commutes, community building is critical to helping students feel a sense of belonging.

How Do You Attract New Members and Keep Them Engaged Throughout the Year?

Members of the SWE Everett Community College Affiliate at WE23
Members of the SWE Everett Community College Affiliate at WE23

We’ve tried all the usual things — posting flyers, having a table at Club Fest, doing presentations in classrooms, sending mass emails, and having instructors post announcements.

Those generally don’t work much. What works best is when SWE members and academic advisors personally talk to women engineering majors and invite them to join SWE.

We try to get money for affiliate leaders to attend the big SWE Annual Conference each fall. We rent a house and cook together, as well as stay up late doing homework and playing games. We go to sessions and share what we learned and come up with ideas for things we want to do at our school. That trip does wonders for engaging leaders and gives them motivation to do great work all year.

We also try to have fun get-togethers. This fall, we went to the Everett Community College Cosmetology School and got manicures. One year, we did axe throwing. Another year, we went to an escape room. Making people feel like part of a community really helps keep members engaged.

What Are Your Goals for the SWE Everett Community College Affiliate for the Remainder of the School Year or Possibly Looking Ahead to the 2024-2025 Year?

We are putting on a Dinner with Industry event in April. That’s our big event for the year where we invite local community members and alumni to come talk to students. It’s sort of a speed mentoring event.

After that, we’ll do some outreach at the college’s big science fair and request money for next year’s cohort to attend the SWE Annual Conference in the fall. We have a couple students who will be able to step into leadership positions next fall, and we will spend some time in this last part of the year recruiting a few more.

How Does CCASE Help Your SWE Affiliate Accomplish These Goals?

As a community college, we don’t have a lot of funding. And while our SWE Everett Community College Affiliate has done amazingly well at accessing resources at the college, being able to bring in external support makes it possible for us to do more. It also makes the college more amenable to supporting us when they know we are seeking external funding. The discounted conference registration was a huge help for us this year. We are using $375 from CCASE toward Dinner With Industry, which is a huge help, too.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed, though, was the free SWE memberships. In past years, it’s been really hard to get students to join SWE because the $50 membership was too high a burden for them. With the memberships my students received as part of CCASE, I had far more become SWE members. Because of that, I also had far more students apply for SWE scholarships.

What Has Been the Most Popular Event You’ve Held Over the Years? Why Do You Think It Was So Popular?

Our Dinner With Industry event is always our biggest event. As a community college, we don’t have career fairs or alumni events. This event that SWE hosts is as close as we come to either. Students really appreciate getting to talk to professionals in a low-stress environment. Many of them are the first in their family to go into a STEM field, and it gives them a huge sense of relief when they meet an actual professional and hear what their post-college life is like. They also love the free food.

Is There Anything Else About the SWE Everett Community College Affiliate You Would Like to Share With the SWE Community?

I’ve kept in touch with many SWE members who transferred to large universities. Most of them join SWE there but are disappointed in the lack of community in those sections and affiliates. While our humble affiliate has less resources to do as many events as the larger groups, our focus on creating community for women and nonbinary STEM majors makes us highly effective in helping retain women in STEM.


  • SWE Blog

    SWE Blog provides up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference every day. You’ll find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics.