Society promotes support of women engineers
Andrea Vale | Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Before entering her senior year of high school, now-college senior Jillian Montalvo attended the Introduction to Engineering Program at Notre Dame. As part of the program, she also attended an event hosted by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), during which she listened to speakers from the group. When she arrived on campus, Montalvo knew what she wanted to do.
“The first thing I did when I came here freshman year was sign up for SWE,” Montalvo said.
Over the past year, the group has met on the first Wednesday of every month, discussed future plans and hosted an average of four events per month, Montalvo said. Since Montalvo’s freshman year, membership has grown so substantially that the group has gone from being classified as a medium section, with 50 to 100 members, to a large section. Currently, the Notre Dame chapter, of which Montalvo is now president, has over 200 members and is one of the largest student organizations on campus, Montalvo said.
“SWE’s mission is to stimulate women to achieve their full potential as engineers and leaders, expand the images of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life and demonstrate the value of diversity,” Montalvo said.
SWE has hosted a variety of events in order to achieve this goal, Montalvo said. They played a large part in Engineering Industry Day, a career fair that connects engineering companies with possible engineers for hire, and Early Admit Week, Montalvo said. Much of their work involves South Bend, including Girl Scout Day, where South Bend Girl Scouts are taught about engineering through crafts and other activities, Montalvo said. Profits from several of their events — including This Is Engineering and the Trick-or-SWEet Run — benefit charity, Montalvo said.
According to Cathy Pieronek, assistant dean of academic affairs of the College of Engineering and advisor to the society, the Notre Dame chapter started around 1977.
“Dr. Jerry Marley, who was assistant dean at the time, wanted to start it. I would guess it was because women were still a fairly recent addition to Notre Dame and a small part of engineering.
“We had no women faculty. I would think that he thought it would be important for our women to have access to professional women engineers for role models, inspiration and mentoring.”
The most important aspect of SWE is the amazing opportunities it provides for its members, Montalvo said.
“It has something for everyone,” Montalvo said. “For first year students, it’s a great source of encouragement and mentoring. We plan several events specifically geared towards first year students to help them decide if engineering is right for them and also, if they do like engineering, which field of engineering they should choose.
“It’s also a great place to meet other women in engineering, to make friends and to build relationships on which you might otherwise miss out,” she said. “There’s also the professional development aspect of the society. The biggest part of this, I would say, would be the regional and national conferences that I’ve been able to attend, thanks to SWE.
“These conferences offer amazing networking opportunities, and it’s amazing to meet other collegiate and professional members of SWE and to listen to their stories. SWE has been a huge part of my college career.”
Next year, Katrina Gonzales will take over as president of the SWE, Gonzales said, after having joined the Society her freshman year.
“As the next president, I am excited to lead a club of such strong and intelligent individuals — yes, men can join too,” she said.
“I hope to continue to shape our section into the club its members want it to be. As president, I also intend to focus on including more outreach efforts to the local area and partnering with other clubs on campus to have a broader impact.
“I look forward to working with so many inspired and passionate individuals.”