Mikayla Ehrsam speaks from experience when she details the pros of participation in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
“Joining SWE has easily been the best decision I have made during my college career,” she said. “I have received endless support and empowerment from fellow female engineers, and I have truly learned the importance of diversity in the engineering field.”
Ehrsam, current president of the society’s UT section, adds that benefits of membership are not exclusive to time in school.
“SWE has provided me with the tools to develop my leadership skills and networking abilities, which have led to two internships and employment after graduation,” she said. Ehrsam interned at Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, South Carolina, in 2016, and with Southern Nuclear at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia, in 2017. She will return to Plant Vogtle as a full-time engineer in summer 2018.
SWE is an international organization with over 35,000 professional and collegiate members. Its official mission is to help women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.
“As a member of SWE, the most important thing you’ll gain is support from a strong network,” said Ehrsam. “One way to gain this support is through SWEeties, a peer mentoring program that strives to improve the retention of female engineering students.”
SWE members enjoy a variety of networking and professional development events throughout the year.
“One of our biggest networking events is Evening with Industry (EWI),” said Ehrsam. “Students have the opportunity to network with company representatives at dinner on the night before the Fall Engineering Expo.”
A variety of outreach events, such as Tomorrow’s Engineers Today, also offer members the opportunity to inspire young girls to pursue a career in engineering.
“Our SWE section knows that engineering can be stressful, so in addition to our professional and outreach events, we host at least one social event each month,” said Ehrsam. “Some of our events include holiday potlucks, corn mazes, ice skating, tie-dying, ice cream socials, movie nights, award banquets, and so much more.”
The UT SWE section interacts with members from around the world via an annual conference. In 2017, more than 9,000 women at all stages of their engineering careers attended the SWE conference in Austin, Texas. Locally, SWE hosts outreach, professional, and social events with the Smoky Mountain professional SWE chapter.
“Additionally, SWE hosts several smaller conferences each year around the world called WE Local,” said Ehrsam. “The combination of the annual and WE Local conferences provide members with a variety of opportunities to connect with fellow engineers, discover career opportunities, and pursue professional development.”