It’s been a while. Work has been busy and I’m currently getting paid to write one blog post a week for Illinois Admissions, so I recommend you go check out some of my posts.

Currently, I’m preparing my last year of college when it feels like I was shopping for dorm room accessories just yesterday. For the next semester, I plan on spending my fall as most senior engineering students do: career fairs, job applications, interviews and site visits. I will be pursuing a full-time engineering role in industry relating to chemicals (or maybe consulting or refining).

But what about my love for engineering education?

Today, I read an article in from USA Today titled 74% of STEM Grads Don’t Get STEM Jobs. A sociologist conducted this research and described her findings, “STEM graduates have relatively low unemployment; however, these graduates are not necessarily employed in STEM occupations.” Even though 50% of engineers will take STEM jobs, only 14% of these engineers are women. It would be possible to seek a job related to science and math education to help inspire K-12 students to be engineers, but this is not where my passion lies. Universities are seeing an increase engineering enrollment, but the country is not seeing a result from this. There has not been an increase in full-time engineers, despite more students studying engineering.

MissPossible

One way my fellow engineering students at Illinois are raising the number of women in STEM (and business and finance and everywhere else) is with their start-up Miss Possible. Click this picture to learn more about their business and their Indiegogo campaign!

So I will help (hopefully) raise the 14% of female engineers and 50% of engineering students in a STEM occupation. I want to work in industry so I can figure out how incoming college students and freshman engineering students can learn and become passionate about STEM jobs. I cannot help narrow the gap between college and industry if I do not experience both. While I work in technical role, I will continue to help improve engineering education through volunteering with organizations like Big Beacon and First Lego League competitions.

Why do I care about Engineering Education?

I care about the 74% because this number cannot be stagnant. I also care about the 100%. Engineering outreach must not simply be “look how cool science can be”. It must show K-12 students what it means to be an engineering. Undergraduate students cannot be cooped up in a classroom talking about theory all day. They must be taught theory and then taken out into the real world to see the application of theoretical knowledge. Everyday, education must add value to the student so that it is not simply discarded after graduation. Instead of projecting something on a PowerPoint slide and saying “you’ll use this someday”, we must give students something that they can use today. We have a growing need for engineers, scientists and mathematicians in this country, but 74% are not employed in STEM fields. I challenge both the academic and industrial worlds to work together to change these numbers. Because if we change these numbers, we will change science, technology, research, manufacturing and so many more integral parts of our society. By improving engineering education, we will change the world.

What about my future?

I could go to grad school for PhD in engineering education. I could find a role within the company I work for that allows me to improve engineering education. I could find a new company committed to improving engineering education. I could be an entrepreneur and start my own company. There are so many opportunities to do so much and wherever I am in the future, I only know one thing: I will be working to change the world, one mind at a time.

Happy not-Monday-anymore! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that you had a good Monday too. As of now, I have only one more Monday of classes left. I can’t believe this semester flew by already. Only a few more weeks and I’ll be a senior. Maybe that will be a joy of engineering at some point: You’re busy that you barely notice how much time flies past until graduation is less than 365 days away. But that will be saved for another day!

My joy in engineering today is: #WIEchooseIllinois.

#WIEchooseIllinois is a trending hashtag for Twitter that means Women in Engineering (WIE) choose Illinois. Tonight I participated in a Twitter chat for admitted students to ask questions about what it was like to be a woman in engineering at Illinois. I sat in a room some really beautiful women whose many talents include leadership, engineering (of course!), entrepreneurship, advocacy, etc. We answered admitted student questions and also shared stories of our past 3-4 years at Illinois. I loved seeing these incredible women sharing their Illinois experiences: researching to cure cancer, visiting Silicon Valley to learn more about start-up culture, leading the Society of Women Engineers, studying abroad and so much more. The level of passion for engineering and Illinois in the room was almost tangible.

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Did I mention the Alma Mater is back after her restoration? My first picture with the University of Illinois icon was as an admitted student when I came for orientation during the summer of 2011.

The other reason that my joy of engineering is #WIEchooseIllinois is because three years ago this month I made the decision to come to the University of Illinois. I had only visited Illinois twice. Everyone in my hometown thought UIUC was in Chicago, not Urbana-Champaign. It was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had as a student here at Illinois. I’m so very thankful for the people who chose to come to Illinois with me. I can’t imagine losing even one person from the communities I love like the Catholic Newman Center’s Koinonia “family”, the WIMSE (Women in Math, Science and Engineering) Living-Learning Community dorms, CUBE Consulting, etc. These people have changed my life. Not in a sappy way, but in a way that I will use to help me continue to become a better version of myself throughout the rest of my life.

So to all of my friends and fellow (or former) University of Illinois students: Thank you for choosing Illinois!

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.

At the airport in January, preparing to fly for eight hours from Detroit to London for study abroad.

Over three months ago, on a dark rainy night, I arrived in Swansea, Wales with two huge suitcases of almost everything I owned. After an hour of running around in the dark with luggage, I finally figured out how to pick up my keys and move into my current home. It took some adjustment to get used to study abroad, which I expected. However, I was unprepared for the adjustment of a friend who had also come from Illinois to Swansea with me.

In January 2012, I decided that I wanted to study abroad in January 2013. Instantly, a good friend and fellow chemical engineer decided that she wanted to study abroad as well and would come with me wherever I went. Together, we planned our study abroad experiences for January 2013 here in Swansea, already discussing the three week spring break we would do together as a tour of Europe. At the same time, we continued to take the same classes together and also decided to live in an apartment together for the academic year of 2013-2014 with two of my best friends.

After arriving in Swansea, all of my careful planning quickly dismantled itself. My friend and I adjusted in our own separate ways to the United Kingdom. We settled into different methods of thinking and dealing with our new situations which we believed to be the “right” and “correct” way so that we failed to understand the other person. Sadly, both of us thought more highly of ourselves than of each other. This led to a lot of disagreements between us that unfortunately poisoned our friendship. I did not go on a grand tour of Europe with my friend for spring break nor will I be living with her next semester because we must now work to salvage our friendship as much as possible.

This sad personal story brings me to what, in my opinion, is one of the largest problems facing women in engineering today: Women react in unhealthy ways to competition and are more emotionally vulnerable to it. Women are catty and hold on to grudges a little too well. In my case, my friend and I competed over which method was the “best” way of living the study abroad experience. Generally men are more prone to reacting to an insult physically, exchanging a few blows and then making up the next day. Women, on the other hand, remember when someone wounds their pride all too well for weeks and make use of opportunities to exact revenge in a spiteful manner. This is a stereotype and not always the case, but it’s also mostly true.

Illinois’s 2011-2012 Society of Women Engineering Team Tech, a group of engineers who compete in a design competition that fosters healthy rivalry among women.

Engineering is a competitive program. In order to receive an A while studying at Illinois, 80% of my class has to perform poorer than I do. Being an out-of-state student on academic scholarship, I especially feel the weight of this competition and the pressure to perform. I also must confess to feeling a little¬†schadenfreude when the girls who always talked behind me in my first college chemistry class dropped the class because it was too challenging for them. Competition is currently necessary in order to make the engineering curriculum function and it’s necessary in life as well. However, it fails to encourage women to pursue engineering because the competition in engineering can cause resentment and destroy friendships, especially for women.

Should girls and boys be educated separately in math and science? I don’t think so. I’m a staunch promoter of gender equality, outside and inside the classroom. That being said, girls and boys do think and approach problems differently. Girls and boys place different values on different things. Engineering is dominated by men so it is designed to accommodate their method of thinking more than women’s. In order to promote engineering to women, I believe engineering needs to design its sense of competition to be appealing to both men and women without causing the social strain I’ve experienced recently.

This post is part of the Woman in Engineering category to be used in a future ethnography. These posts reflect feelings and experiences from a student, not concrete truth and hypotheses.

Happy belated International Women’s Day! Just a brief post on being a woman in engineering today because I was reading this article about how female and minority engineers are more likely to be unemployed. Let’s talk about the numbers real fast: The national unemployment rate right now is 9.6%. The unemployment rate for engineers who are Caucasian and male is 3.6%. If you’re a male and Hispanic or African American or American Indian, the unemployment rate doubles to approximately 7%. Asians are not considered to be minorities within engineering, but Asian women experience this same problem. The ratio of women being unemployed for family reasons compared to men is 5:1. Women are less likely to receive research grants, despite making gains within academia. Here’s the last statistic you need to hear about as demonstrated by the graph: 51% of those employed in engineering are white men. The next largest group? 18% are white women, less than half of the amount of white men employed as engineers.

Reasons For Not Working Among Scientists And Engineers, 2010

Reasons For Not Working Among Scientists And Engineers, 2010: NSF

I am a woman in engineering. Everyday, I walk into classes where I am one of five girls in a fifty person lecture. When I tell people I’m an engineer, I endure the quizzical looks without comment and laugh off any exclamations about girls in engineering. When I fill out engineering job applications, I proudly mark my gender for the minority reporting at the end. I received the Zonta Young Women in Public Affairs Award my senior year of high school because I majoring in a male-dominated field. I’m a proud member of SWE and a supporter of ToGetHerThere¬†which focus on encouraging more girls to pursue science and engineering. I believe this is extremely important.

How am I supposed to inspire girls to pursue engineering when I can’t guarantee they’ll have a job? Is all that I’ve put up and worked for to go to waste? I know it won’t, but it’s discouraging to see articles reporting such biases still exist and hear about women’s salaries compared to men and the glass ceiling.

I am so thankful for all the support friends and family have given me in order to continue to pursue this career. I will do my best to earn my place with engineering and support my fellow female engineers. Together, we can change these statistics and I look forward to the day we do this.

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