Michigan Tech SWE Members Attend WE21 Conference

Student members of Michigan Tech’s section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the Society of Women Engineers WE21 Conference, held Oct. 21-23. 

MTU SWE attendees included Aerith Cruz, Lisa Downie, Sophie Owen, Katy Pioch, Veeraja Sohoni, Grace TenBrock, Julia Westfall, Abby Woodford and Conny Yang. They were accompanied by SWE advisor Gretchen Hein (MMET) and two SWENexters, Jenna Beaudoin and Chloe Daniels of Lake Linden-Hubbell High School.

The group members attended sessions on professional development and the Career Fair and enjoyed meeting with other professional and collegiate members.

Cruz was a workshop panelist for the “Zoomed In! Inspiring Youth through Virtual Programming” session, where she discussed how our SWE section held virtual outreach during the COVID pandemic.

Beaudoin and Daniels, along with Devon Ginn from the Madam Walker Legacy Center, held a workshop titled “Madam Walker: Entrepreneur and Woman of Color” on the life and achievements of Madam C.J. Walker, one of the first woman millionaires and an advocate for women and African Americans.

Hein was the moderator of a panel titled “Finishing Grad School? Need Assistance Obtaining an Academic Position?” where graduate students could get advice and feedback about their transition from graduate school to academia.

The SWE members also hosted a Tech alumni event for Huskies at the conference. Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering, and Marney Kloote, director of advancement, attended as well.

Pioch said the conference was “one of the best experiences” she has had in SWE. “To be surrounded by so many successful, strong and encouraging women creates an atmosphere like no other,” Pioch said. “I had the chance to listen to women from many walks of life share their stories, career paths and advice over the course of three days.”

Meeting Tech alumni who have succeeded in their careers because of the experiences and knowledge they gained at Tech was another highlight for Pioch. “I really enjoy getting to know people who’ve been in our shoes and are excited to see the next generation of engineers and bright minds Tech is producing,” she said.

The closing keynote of the SWE conference was an inspiring talk by Patti Poppe, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric. The keynote was the best part of the conference for Sophie Owen, MTU’s section president. “It was so inspiring to hear from a woman that is highly influential in the electric power industry, since this is the field I am interested in,” Owen said. “I also enjoyed getting to bond with my SWEsters over the weekend.”

“I want to also extend a thank-you to our generous corporate sponsor, Gerdau,” added Owen. “Without their support, attending this conference would not have been possible.”

According to Hein, Gerdau’s support allowed the nine women to attend the conference, meet with other people in technical fields and mentor two SWENexters during the trip.

By Gretchen Hein, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.


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