Club hopes to be first Texas community college recognized by national group.
By Wally Perez
A student group stressing the importance of women in science, technology, engineering and math is being revitalized this semester.
The campus chapter of the Society of Women Engineers is working to increase membership.
“Our goal is to expand education for women in the STEM field,” said Ashlee Davison, SWE president and engineering sophomore.
“Seventeen percent of all engineering across the world is done by women; we have to beat the odds against these numbers,” Davison said. “Here at SAC, I believe the percentage is better, but internationally there is a low representation.”
There are 11 members in the group, but Davison hopes to reach about 20 by the end of the semester.
“We’re fundraising and trying to get more members; we need to get the word out to all the engineering women on campus and others interested that we’re here,” she said. “There are about 80 women engineering students at SAC according to our adviser, Ms. (Susan) Denny.”
The society will host a coffee hour 5-6 p.m. Thursday at Candlelight coffeehouse.
A fundraiser, which the group calls a “brain food breakfast,” will be 9 a.m.-1 p.m. March 8 in the mall. Breakfast tacos and coffee will be served.
Davison said it can be hard for women in STEM classes.
“It’s challenging … it seems that if you walk into something like a physics class, the guys there know how to work all the equipment; it almost seems intrinsic to them,” she said. “We didn’t all grow up playing with Legos or erector sets; not all of us had that advantage.”
“As a group, we’re kind of having to beat the odds of being born women and wanting to be engineers,” Davison said. “It seems that a lot of the women in the field are more reserved. You don’t really see them speaking up in class as much; there’s somewhat of an intimidation factor.”
The society allows women to feel comfortable in sharing their ideas; it builds self-esteem, she said.
The society is a couple of years old, but it dropped off last spring, she said. “We have goals and ideas we’d like to accomplish for the fall,” Davison said.
The group has applied for the Faculty/Staff Innovation Grant to work with children on 3-foot-high tabletop windmills.
These windmills feature build-your-own turbine blades, which will measure different outputs according to blade size and shape.
The kit also comes with mini generators so the children can learn what a generator is and how it works.
“We’re planning to go out and connect with younger students in the community, such as underprivileged schools and communities if we get the grant,” she said.
Davison hopes to expand from being a society on campus to being connected to the Society of Women Engineers on a national level.
SWE is a huge international organization for women who are engineers. It’s not just a local group here on campus, she said.
In the next two weeks, the group will submit an application to the national SWE organization to join as a collegiate interest group. With enough members, it could become an official collegiate group.
“We would be the first collegiate group at a community college in Texas if we are accepted,” she said.
If accepted, the group can receive benefits such as funding for outreach events, contest opportunities and the ability to attend the national conference in Philadelphia in October.
The group is also planning social events where members and potential members can hang out and get to know one another.
Davison hopes they build enough momentum to get the group up and running for the fall and encouraged, the women at this college to not sit in silence or be overshadowed by men.
“I was taught that you have to be better than the boys; you have to know more and be better at everything in general to be taken seriously; that’s what we do here,” she said.
“We try to get everyone’s chops up so they know how to communicate with employers and the community in a professional manner.”
The group meets 3-4 p.m. every Monday in the MESA Center, Room 204 of Chance Academic Center.
Email Davison at email@example.com.