The Society for Women Engineers (SWE) has a thriving and active chapter at Carnegie Mellon. With 240 members it is probably one of the larger student organizations at CMU. So what is this organization all about?
“SWE’s whole mission is just to support women in STEM, whether that be engineering, math, or science,” says the CMU SWE’s President, Alyssa Brown (MechE/BME ’21). She also points out that the organization is open to everyone, not just those who identify as women. “As long as you support women in STEM, SWE is a welcoming place.”
SWE is perhaps most known across campus for working with CMU administrators to organize the Technical Opportunities Conference (TOC), a career fair that brings hundreds of companies to campus to interview thousands of students for internship and job openings. Although this year necessitated a virtual career fair, participants were not deterred. Thanks in large part to the hard work of Tanvi Bhargava (ECE ’22) and Meghana Keeta (ECE ’23), the TOC directors and corporate relations co-chairs for CMU SWE, the TOC was able to draw a big crowd. Around 3,0000 people came each day of the conference by utilizing CareerEco, a virtual platform designed specifically for large-scale career fairs.
Bhargava explains that their preparation for the TOC this year didn’t involve physical coordination like providing tables and meeting rooms, but that there was still plenty of work to be done. “We would send out tutorials and resources to students so they could figure out how to actually use this platform… lots of webinars and answering questions.”
“I think in the end it was pretty successful,” adds Keeta. “We still had really high attendance with around 3,000 people showing up every day.” Corporate participation also didn’t dip despite the digital format; 168 companies were in attendance.
The TOC is a big undertaking, but it’s far from CMU SWE’S only event. The organization has multiple committees, each of which aim to hold at least one event a month, making for plenty of ways to engage with the organization. The committees cover corporate relations, professional development, mentorship, outreach, publicity, graduate studies, and social events.
As part of outreach, SWE hosts a visiting day each semester for Pittsburgh girls interested in STEM: a high school day in the fall, and a middle school day in the spring. These field trips usually involve hands-on learning activities, tours of labs, and discussions with various college students and professors. Brown shared that moving this event to an online forum was one of the larger challenges of the year so far. “It was definitely a little bit more difficult to get people to register because it wasn’t a fun, exciting trip to CMU.” But, on the flip side, regular tutoring for K-12 students is easier than ever since college students don’t need to travel to different neighborhoods to meet with their students.
Dilara Ozdoganlar (MSE/BME ’22), CMU SWE’s vice president added that being able to connect digitally was also a boon for bringing in speakers for professional development and networking events. “We could reach out to any speaker from across the country and they could just join in on a Zoom call and talk to us, which I think is really cool. There’s no barrier of travel.” The leaders of the organization agreed that using digital tools like teleconferencing and recording meetings would probably be something they would continue to do even after the pandemic wanes, although they agreed that going back to in-person social events is something they look forward to.
The CMU chapter of SWE has not gone unnoticed by their national organization. The chapter has received 25 separate awards nationally and locally for their efforts. The leaders highlighted that their Mission Gold Awards from National SWE are the ones they are most proud of “because they really exemplify that we are living the whole mission of the national organization,” says Brown.
Overall, each student leader has clearly had a rewarding experience being involved in SWE. When asked about her favorite aspect of SWE, Ozdoganlar said, “The empowerment that comes from that community. Some of the first people that I really got to know at CMU who knew what they were doing were SWE members. They taught me so much and even helped me choose my major. Alyssa was actually one of those people.”
It’s been really an empowering reminder of why I’m going through such a rigorous program in undergrad.Alyssa Brown, President of CMU SWE, MechE/BME ’21
“I would also say community is a big one,” adds Bhargava. “It was just really refreshing to see really smart people, really smart women in my field, and being able to talk to them and learn from them in my first year here.”
“The opportunities are also amazing,” Keeta adds. “There are so many different ways to get involved, and there are so many ways to even go beyond SWE and become a better engineer and person.”
And finally, Brown said, “It’s been really an empowering reminder of why I’m going through such a rigorous program in undergrad. It’s definitely been, honestly, the highlight of my time at CMU, and definitely, my experience in SWE is something that I will take with me forever.”