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U-M Society of Women Engineers honored with top awards at national conference

ECE leaders and members in SWE share their favorite parts of the conference, including taking home three awards for the U-M chapter.
Group photo of U-M SWE chapter at conference
U-M SWE chapter.

At this year’s Society for Women Engineers (SWE) National Conference, the U-M chapter took home three awards, including the top award, Collegiate Gold. Collegiate Gold recognizes chapters that achieve overall excellence and engagement with all components of SWE’s mission, which is to empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion.

“One thing we’re really trying to focus on is intersectionality,” said Kathryn Beeman, an Electrical Engineering student who currently serves as U-M SWE’s External Vice President. “We want to do more to support and empower women of color. We’re also open to anyone regardless of gender identity. As long as you support the mission of empowering women in engineering, you’re more than welcome to join.”

As long as you support the mission of empowering women in engineering, you’re more than welcome to join.

Kathryn Beeman, U-M SWE External Vice President

The U-M Chapter also earned awards for Best Practice: Globalization, for excellence in empowering women in engineering and technology regardless of geography or career stage, and Best Practice: Public Policy, for their strong STEM promotion within the community.

In addition to seminars focused on personal and professional development, an awards banquet dinner, and networking opportunities with other chapters and recruiters, the conference provides attendees an opportunity to grow their community and find support.

“For me, the conference also gives me a chance to bond with other SWE sections from other universities as well as industry folks,” said Enakshi Deb, an Electrical Engineering student who serve’s as SWE’s Marketing & Membership Director. “It really fills me with awe to see so many female engineers gathered in one place!”

It really fills me with awe to see so many female engineers gathered in one place!

Enakshi Deb

This year, in person sessions were held in Indianapolis, IN, which 36 U-M members attended. There were also virtual options to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. During the conference, the U-M design team, Team Tech, presented on their work with semiconductor giant, KLA, on designing wearable technology to make cleanrooms more accessible. KLA’s President and CEO is alum Rick Wallace (BSE EE 1982), and they just opened a second headquarters in Ann Arbor this past fall.

“The SWE conference is a fantastic way to break out of the ‘college bubble’ on campus and meet new people from around the world, but I found it an equally fantastic way to bond with people from U-M that I already knew and to grow closer as a SWE section,” said Himaja Motheram, a Computer Engineering student who formerly served as the Advocacy Officer. “From taking members to get bandaids for their blisters mid-conference, to having dinner at the end of the day and learning more about each other, to just exploring Indianapolis and having fun – there were so many new experiences, but they were all the more valuable, because we were experiencing them together.”

There were so many new experiences, but they were all the more valuable, because we were experiencing them together.

Himaja Motheram

Deb’s favorite session of the conference was the closing keynote speaker, Patti Poppe, who was the first female executive to serve as the CEO of one Fortune 500 and become CEO of another. 

“She was engaging as a speaker and inspiring to listen to,” Deb said. “She also gave our SWE section a shout out, since one of her daughters is an alum!”

Beeman and Motheram both said their favorite presentation was given by fellow U-M SWE member, Regan Bullister, a Mechanical Engineering student, titled, “How Becoming a Grad Student Instructor Remedied My Social Anxiety.”

“I think we all struggle with the imposter syndrome and social anxiety at times, so it was really helpful to get her insight and learn about her thought process,” Beeman said. “It was a really fun and rewarding experience.”

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