ATHENS, Ohio (Nov. 19, 2012) - For the women engineers convened in Houston at the Society of Women Engineers 2012 conference earlier this month, career development was a top priority. Fourteen members of the student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology attended the conference, held Nov. 8-12.
More than 250 companies, government agencies and universities exhibited, including Toyota, Intel, Boeing and Disney.
Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Diana Schwerha, adviser for the group, said the event is known for its enormous career fair.
“An entire day was dedicated to it,” she said. “Students could speak with representatives from many companies, and in some cases, participate in interviews.”
Jacque Hawes, chapter vice president and a senior graduating in May, said having attended the conference will benefit her preparation to enter the workforce next year.
“I attended a seminar that gave tips on proper networking and techniques to help me interview with companies better,” she said. “I also attended a seminar that gave me an idea of what to expect as a new engineer in a professional environment. This was particularly helpful because it made me more comfortable knowing a little bit of what to expect along with techniques and tips to make the most of my role as a new employee.”
Professional development topics ranged from graduate school to organizing K-12 outreach programs, and from effective public speaking to balancing an engineering career with family.
Sarah Miller, chapter president, said she most enjoyed the sessions on innovation in energy technologies, her primary area of interest.
“One presenter from University of Michigan conducts operations research on maximizing system benefits,” she said. “This includes grouping technologies, like wind energy with car batteries or solar energy with air conditioners. A representative from PECO (the largest electric and natural gas utility in Pennsylvania) covered new technologies in the PECO smart grid with automatic meter readings in case of an outage. I also learned more about nuclear energy,” She added.
Aside from work aspirations, relationship building was also key. Emily Blaha valued how the trip helped form new friendships among students of Russ College's different majors.
“We're all extremely busy and involved students, and it is not easy to plan social activities to get to know each other personally,” Blaha said. “I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to interact with members who couldn't attend, because I think every student should experience the support that can be found through the Society of Women Engineers.”
Associate Dean for Academics Jeff Giesey said that the students’ travel was possible thanks to the landmark estate gift of $124 million from 1942 electrical engineering alumnus Fritz Russ, and his wife, Dolores, to the Russ College in 2008.
“We have a unique opportunity to support our students. We want to give them great opportunities and strengthen our student organizations,” he said. “Not only do our students benefit individually, but they develop creative ideas for chapter activities and other ways of getting involved.”