Four years ago, the CU Denver Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter emerged from dormancy. Since then, membership has more than tripled and the group continues to gain momentum. Already this year, they are part of two college NSF CAREER grant proposals and a STEM proposal with the CU Denver Mathematical and Statistical Sciences Department, and they are mentoring students at area high schools, including an all-female team of high school students who will compete at the 2015 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas in Detroit.
“The biggest accomplishment of our chapter is increasing our membership and outreach,” says Chelsea Starr, chapter president and a senior in mechanical engineering. “One of the biggest obstacles that we have had to overcome is the lack of participation.”
When Starr joined SWE as a freshman, she was motivated by the networking opportunities with female engineers in the workplace and the opportunity to help increase awareness about STEM fields through K-12 outreach. “It is important to tell today’s high school students why STEM fields are so rewarding, and to encourage them to pursue degrees in these areas,” she says. “SWE was one avenue that allowed this link between young girls and college students.”
SWE faculty advisor, Maryam Darbeheshti, hopes that the work of groups like SWE will help continue to shrink the statistical minority of women in the engineering and STEM fields.
“It’s important to empower young women to pursue futures in STEM,” she says. “The students in SWE are energetic, smart and full of new ideas. They just need someone to help point them in the right direction. I’m extremely proud of this group of students and excited to see what the future brings.”
Although Starr graduates next May, she her sights are set on the big picture and the future of the organization. “I hope to leave CU Denver with valuable leadership qualities and experience, as well as satisfaction knowing that our SWE chapter continues to grow.”
For more information about the organization, visit societyofwomenengineers.swe.org.