Who better to learn best practices from than our region’s collegiate sections themselves? Read on for innovative event ideas, and methods to show appreciation for your members. [Ed. note: Responses are edited for clarity and length.]
Recognize Section Members and Build Your Leadership Pipeline
- Old Dominion University: Our best practice would be the time we spend at the end of each meeting. After going over the group announcements and upcoming events and featuring any speaker we may have, we talk to the members individually. A large majority of our girls were very shy at the beginning and therefore wouldn’t speak out in a large crowd. Our officers specifically have been encouraged to make a personal connection as they will be the ones coming to all the meetings generally. There will always be a friendly face.
- Cornell University: We have leadership training workshops with the chairs, which help chairs get to know each other and participate in reflective activities. We also nominate a “chair of the month” to allow for more recognition within SWE. We have also accomplished more effective communication with our chairs and directors by holding meetings more regularly and increasing member feedback to evaluate how E-board is doing by using Qualtrics anonymous surveys.
- Virginia Commonwealth University: We hosted an event called “Engineers Got Talent” for Engineering Week. After months of planning with a 100-150 person expected attendance, we successfully ran this showcase for engineers to show the school what they’ve got.
Develop Your Members Professionally
- University of Pennsylvania: Penn SWE was proud to host PennSustains, the university’s first sustainability solution competition. The competition had three objectives in mind: celebrate “the joy of building things,” make Penn and Philadelphia a more sustainable campus and city, and utilize engineering in any endeavors. In its inaugural year, 29 participants across nine teams vied for over $7,000 in prizes raised by the planning committee. The event not only united diverse ideas from planning committee members and student teams, but also stressed professional excellence (written and verbal) in participants as they crafted business plans and idea pitches from scratch.
- Rowan University: We partnered with the “Why So Slow? The Progress of Women in STEM” Faculty Learning Community to host a TED Discussion. SWE members, general collegiates, and faculty members attended and were inspired to empower themselves through the use of nonverbal behavior. It was a huge hit and we plan on hosting more TED discussions in the future.
Enhance Educational Outreach Activities
- Cooper Union: This year, we increased the number of events that we hold at different schools in the New York area to promote engineering to students at a young age. For example, we recently expanded our Kids in Engineering outreach program. This November, SWE members hosted 28 Fifth Graders at Cooper Union for a Kids in Engineering Day. We taught these elementary school students about all different types of engineering and particularly about bridges. Afterward, we worked with them as they built their own bridges in teams of two on a limited budget; the best bridge won a prize. While they enjoyed this activity, they also learned a lot about bridges and figured out how to work together most efficiently. We then enjoyed lunch together and gave the students a tour of our mechanical and civil engineering projects and labs. We hope to get kids, particularly young girls, excited about engineering by exposing them to ideas and encouraging them to think like engineers. We hope to give back to the community and expand our women in engineering initiatives in this manner.
- Stony Brook University: NY Cares Day was a great community outreach event that SWE members attended in the fall. We went to a school in Brooklyn for at risk young adults. We painted inspirational murals and quote boards all through the halls and libraries. The main message was to find light even through dark situations. SBU SWE is a repeat participant in this event. We have a lot of love for it and hope to get even more people interested next year.
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute: One event in the fall that went really well was Brownie Day. Our SWE members received positive feedback, and a lot of the girls who volunteered for this event from SWE weren’t necessarily ones that attended the meetings. It was good to see that people want to be actively involved with SWE even if they can’t attend meetings. This event also went well because it was a way to outreach to the local community and expose young girls to aspects of science and engineering. One parent’s comments struck home: “Daisy Troop 888 (from Christiansburg) had a lovely morning at your Inventor event. I (a mom and the leader) thought the activity level was perfectly appropriate for the younger girls. SO many activities are ostensibly for ‘kids’ but not really… and the grownups end up doing/creating the item. I loved that the girls actually did their own work with the encouragement of enthusiastic young adults. It was perfect. Our daughters had a great time. Thank you.”