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Women in MechSE fosters leadership, builds community

1/5/2016

Christina Oehler, MechSE Communciations

 
Women in MechSE executive board: Angela Wiscons, Kea Evans, Caitlin Haisler, Jennifer Luebbers, Tess Marsh, and Emily Weerakkody.
Women in MechSE executive board: Angela Wiscons, Kea Evans, Caitlin Haisler, Jennifer Luebbers, Tess Marsh, and Emily Weerakkody.
Women in MechSE executive board: Angela Wiscons, Kea Evans, Caitlin Haisler, Jennifer Luebbers, Tess Marsh, and Emily Weerakkody.
Mechanical engineering was once a male-dominated field. But in recent years, the number of women entering the field has increased—and, hopefully, so has the bond between them. 
 
Last year, a new organization launched to support this effort. Women in MechSE was created for and by women in the department to share experiences and learn about career opportunities. Women in MechSE originally began as a committee under the student chapter of ASME, co-directed by mechanical engineering undergrads Kea Evans and Sandra Gonzalez. They believed that leadership among the department’s female students had decreased, so they wanted to create a group that would encourage it. Originally, they aimed to increase the involvement of women in ASME. But as time went on, they recognized that the effort would be better for the department as a whole.
 
“We realized this program could go for all societies,” said Evans. “It could help increase leadership, involvement, inclusiveness, and more of a sense of belonging and community for females within MechSE.”
 
Women in MechSE is currently lead by Evans, along with a board of five other undergraduate women. Through career fairs, leadership events, company visits, lunches with female professors, and weekly meetings, the group provides its members with opportunities to further explore career paths. They also encourage women to join other MechSE RSOs that have been predominately male in the past.
 
“We would love for more women to take on leadership roles in these societies and for Women in MechSE to promote involvement in societies that are now led primarily by male students,” said Melissa Biehl, Undergraduate Programs Coordinator and an academic advisor in the MechSE department. “The Undergraduate Programs Office hopes to continue to support this initiative as the number of female students is constantly increasing.”
 
But Evans knows that all work and no play would not make a very interesting environment. To foster camaraderie among MechSE women, the team has social gatherings, including an ice skating event held in the fall semester. 
 
“When I took ME 300, I really didn’t know many people in the class. After the first exam, a bunch of us girls looked at each another and just said, ‘Hey, we really need to get together because we didn't do so well on that exam,’” said Evans. “This made me wonder, if I would have known these girls beforehand, we would have studied together and I might have done better on the exam. That was one of my main motivations for starting Women in MechSE.”