WIE Are Looking Forward

Area of Focus: IEEE Women in Engineering

Graduation Year: UMN Student Group

“Invested with knowledge and tools gained at the conference, where the themes were empowerment, innovation, and leadership, WIE is ready to embrace the new year, new members, and new projects. ”

A Brief History of WIE

The student chapter of IEEE Women in Engineering was established at the University in 2013, with Melissa Phillips (who recently earned her master’s degree from ECE), as its founding president. The goals were modest; they were to reach out to women students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and to set up a space where they could meet and build community. Their first faculty liaison was Prof. Rhonda Franklin who guided them through the process of establishing a student group, developing an agenda, and publicizing the group’s presence to build membership. Kyle Dukart, as undergraduate advisor, and later as department administrator, stepped in to help arrange for financial support and a room to house the group within Keller Hall, ECE’s home.

Leadership and Activities

Under the leadership of Prof. Sarah Swisher who recently took over the role of faculty liaison, WIE has had the opportunity to revisit the state of the group, and discuss future plans and ideas with her. They have been steadily working on raising their visibility through a mix of casual events such as networking luncheons (where women in ECE can connect with each other and build community), “Cocoa & Cram,” (study sessions held before finals), and hosting and facilitating meetings with companies under an event series titled “Spark Talks.” The group welcomed Xcel Energy in January 2017, and IBM in March 2017.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Looking back on the past year, WIE has had several successes. They signed up their first sponsor, IBM, and members of the group will soon be able to sport IBM T-shirts. And a sponsored room might be on the horizon. In recognition of their contributions to the student community WIE was also awarded the Outstanding New Student Group award by the College of Science and Engineering.

As to their future plans, here’s what the group have in mind. The luncheons, which were an outcome of Prof. Swisher’s suggestion (as a graduate student at UC, Berkeley, she found such gatherings an invaluable resource for developing a sense of community and belonging) will continue in the upcoming academic year. The group has found them to be particularly successful in bringing its members together, and bonding and introducing new members to the seasoned ones. Additionally, for fall 2017, WIE hopes to set in motion programs targeted at attracting more freshmen and sophomore members, and in spring 2018, based on the strength of the membership, the goal is to widen their engagement in outreach activities outside the University, and undertake project-oriented tasks in schools and institutions in the Twin Cities area. WIE hope to collaborate with other student groups to harness resources and carry out activities with greater effectiveness in terms of number of activities and attendance at these events. Some of the project oriented outreach goals under consideration include coordinating with groups such as SWE (Society of Women Engineers) to encourage more women to join STEM majors, and developing an ECE presence at public outreach events.

The past academic year has ended on a high note with WIE members Julia Whelan and Emily Neumann travelling to the IEEE WIE International Leadership Conference held in San Jose in May. And this trip will inform their work in the coming years. Invested with the tools and knowledge gained at the conference, where the themes were empowerment, innovation, and leadership, WIE is ready to embrace the new year, new members, and new projects. And we look forward to seeing them scale new heights.