When I moved to the University of Illinois as a freshman, I knew no one on campus. I grew up in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. When the University of Illinois is mentioned, Ohioans frequently respond, “Oh, I love Chicago!” Actually, the University of Illinois’s main campus is located here in Urbana-Champaign, about 2.5 hours south of Chicago.

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WIMSE took a trip to Chicago freshman year where we visited the Museum of Science and Industry and took these pictures.

So I chose to live in the Women in Math, Science and Engineering (WIMSE) Living-Learning Community for my first year at college. A living-learning community is a floor (or several floors, in the case of WIMSE) where people of similar interests live. WIMSE consisted of three floors of at least 50 girls each who were studying subjects related to math, science and engineering. As a freshman who knew no one at a school of 40,000+ students, I felt at home because I lived in WIMSE. I found friends, study buddies, people to go swing dancing with, and so much more from the ladies at WIMSE.

A living-learning community for women in STEM is a beneficial method to encourage women to continue studying science and engineering. I was able to create my own support group who encouraged me to continue studying and dreaming of changing the world, even when I had a 40 page lab report due the next day. WIMSE was a home where female engineer and science students were a majority, not a minority as often happen in physics and calculus classes. When women find a community that both helps and supports their dreams, women will exceed their goals. This is what WIMSE does for women of STEM. Living-learning communities like WIMSE increase the retention of women within science, math and engineering fields of study.

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One interest shared throughout WIMSE was Doctor Who, so my dorm room became a place where WIMSE and other Whovians could watch new episodes on Saturday nights.

Now, 2 out of my 3 roommates live with me off-campus after we became good friends in WIMSE. I still spend weekend nights with former WIMSE girls because they’re still our best friends even though no one lives next door to each other anymore. Most of the executive boards of engineering student organizations include at least one former WIMSE resident, especially the Society of Women Engineers. Former WIMSE residents are currently accomplishing their dreams: attend their top veterinary school, travel the world, work for NASA, conduct ground-breaking research on cancer, etc. I think living in WIMSE for my first year and a half of college was one of the best decisions I made because what I learned living in WIMSE continues to inspire me to be the best engineer I can be.

According to Merriam-Webster.com:

sexy

adjective \ˈsek-sē\

: sexually appealing, attractive, or exciting

: having interesting or appealing qualities

sex·i·er  sex·i·est

So a more apt title for this post would be “Engineering has interesting or appealing qualities!” Doesn’t have as much of a ring to it, does it?

Society does not do a great job of making engineering sexy.

This Ryan Gosling meme does a better job at making engineering sexy.

I love the Big Bang Theory, but this TV show focuses nerdy scientist in love with his beautiful neighbor but it takes them years to date because he’s too smart for her. I love my siblings, but when I tried to encourage my brother to consider joining a FIRST Robotics team, my sister adamantly dissuaded him because it would be “social suicide”. We allow children to start giving up when they say, “I’m not good at math” which we would never do if they said, “I’m not good at reading.” As an engineer, I’m a geek and a nerd taking classes that are “way too hard for me” as everyone I ran into in my hometown told me the past four weeks. Not very interesting or appealing, is it?

Currently, I don’t think I’ve been doing a great job of making engineering sexy enough either.

So without further ado…

Top 10 Reasons Engineering is Sexy

(has interesting or appealing qualities)

  1. Engineers make a difference! Whether it’s making things people use everyday or creating new technology to change the world, engineers are making the world a better place every single day.
  2. Engineers are extremely employable! The US needs more STEM graduates which is why the typical University of Illinois engineering student receives at least two full-time job offers
  3. Engineers do cool things everyday! A family friend who graduated last year currently works for GM breaking engines, pulling them apart and then figuring out why they broke.
  4. Engineers can do anything! Are you interested in health care, food, law, or banking? Engineers can create new medical devices such as a contact that monitor diabetics’ glucose levels, manufacture their favorite foods like Hershey’s chocolate, work in patent law or be finance engineers!
  5. Engineers make a lot money! Here at the University of Illinois, engineers have the highest starting salary out of all majors.
  6. Engineers are creative! Engineers are constantly thinking of new ideas so they can make the world a better place.
  7. Engineers can work anywhere in the world! Every country in the world needs engineers which is why many companies offer international rotation programs to allow their employees to go see the world.
  8. The 2008 US Olympic men’s swim team set 16 records.

    Engineers have good job security! The market just crashed? Everyone still needs engineers to fix roads and make daily items like shampoo and laundry detergent.

  9. Engineers have new projects to work on everyday! Instead of sifting through paperwork all the time, engineers constantly have new, exciting problems to solve.
  10. Engineering is always exciting! Everyday, I learn something new about science that makes me rethink the world whether its why water heats up in the microwave but nitrogen doesn’t or how the design of 2008’s US Olympic swimmers’ bathing suits helped them break records.

This talk was inspired by a Big Beacon Twitter chat on January 15. You can read more about it here. Thanks for reading, commenting, sharing, etc. and have an awesome week!

Obama and his administration have placed a huge emphasis on increasing the number of scientists, engineers and mathematicians graduating from US colleges. Reports conclude the US has a major demand for STEM-skilled employees, but not enough job candidates with the necessary skills to succeed in technology heavy fields.

Conversely, other studies state that there is no STEM shortage. These articles assert that there is an overabundance of STEM graduates which is why only half of STEM graduates find jobs in STEM fields.

Which one is true?

The need for scientists, engineers and mathematicians is real. The studies cited for the surplus of engineers fail to look at the increasing needs of all companies, only focusing on technology-centric corporations. Technology is currently advancing at an unprecedented rate along with social media. Every company, even if it only has three employees, must hire a technologist to accommodate with new tech developments.

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Science education can be interesting and inspiring like when I made nylon in freshman chemistry lab.

The US is currently 17th updated: 21st in science globally as of the new year. This indicates that the United States does not and will not have the workforce of talented STEM-skilled employees to compete with international markets. The best solution to this problem is to increase the number of people graduating with excellent skills relating to math, engineering, science and technology. With more engineering talent, the quality of developing technology and scientific innovations will increase.

Science and engineering education must be improved to produce more talented scientists, engineers and technologists.

Many STEM graduates make careers outside of traditional STEM jobs because they have competing interests. Engineers have an interest in helping to improve the world, but do not always find these job opportunities within engineering. Companies must improve current engineering work environments to harness and utilize the excellent education engineers receive in terms of both upper level science and engineering concepts and problem solving.

With an increased STEM workforce, the US will be able to compete with the international community to develop groundbreaking products in science and technology that will change the world. Students must be inspired to pursue science and engineering so they can develop the next computer, next artificial heart, next Facebook, etc.

We need more scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Encourage the children in your life to become one of them!

After a very long semester, I’m happy to say that I’m back. So, hello again! I hope anyone following this blog or discovering it for the first time is doing well. I apologize for the absence. It was necessary in order to keep my life in order. I came back to Illinois already committed to several organization. I also had a class load that was much more time intensive than what I had experienced in the UK last spring.

So what have I been up to?

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Our CUBE Consulting executive board and project managers at the corn maze near Champaign.

CUBE Consulting: I took on the job as President of CUBE Consulting, the first United States Junior Enterprise, over the summer, searching for projects for this school year. Since then, my executive board and I have successfully recruited 17 new members. My vice president and I transferred planned projects to our project managers and their project teams. We trained our consultants and then watched as our consultants put engineering in practice, solving company’s technical problems. I also started an entrepreneurial speaker series for consultants to learn more from successful entrepreneurs. Want to learn more about CUBE Consulting and Junior Enterprise? Check out this post I wrote about it!

Engineering Initiatives: I joined a new group before returning to Illinois focusing on projects that better the College of Engineering at Illinois. My project last semester was increasing student awareness of necessary documentation for working at an internship, co-op or – employment. My next project will be publicly addressing the fact that chemical engineering is within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, not the College of Engineering, to interested students. Chemical engineers are still engineers and it’s actually very beneficial for chemical engineers to be considered within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Engineering Learning Assistant: I helped teach an Aspirations to Leadership course for freshman engineers. As a leader in several extracurricular activities, I loved teaching a subject that I’m very passionate about. I also enjoyed serving as a mentor to incoming students still adjusting to student life. This course was part of the First Year Experience classes started by iFoundry to create a more hands on, interactive education for first year engineering students which has become a program of the College of Engineering. It was great to be part of such a successful improvement of engineering education at Illinois.

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Some of the ladies I became good friends with this year while helping out at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center on campus.

St. John’s Catholic Newman Center Retreats: For those who don’t know, I’m a Catholic who actively enjoys living my faith. When I left Illinois in Fall 2012 to study abroad, I had just attended my first retreat with the Newman Center on campus. I returned this past fall to assist with another retreat and will be on team for a retreat this spring. I really enjoy this aspect of my life because it helps me grow closer to God and become more involved outside of engineering. I absolutely love engineering, but it’s really important to be diverse! These retreat teams develop my communication and social skills, unlike most of my engineering classes.I’ve made the most amazing friends from being involved. I am already excited for the retreat I’ll be on team for this coming semester!

So this is why I haven’t had a chance to write many any blog posts. I apologize. I’ve been actively investing my time in making a difference for other engineering students. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’ve been doing just that because actions speak louder than words.

That does not change the fact that I want to continue connecting to engineering education advocates around the world. I want to be a change while also sharing my ideas because I think ideas are what creates action.

My New Years Resolution to You

I am going to blog once a week on Monday at 3 pm CST. It won’t be long, but there will be a post every Monday here about new research and developments within engineering and engineering education. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you, but more importantly, hearing your thoughts.

Thanks for your support and I look forward to seeing you on Monday!

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