The 2021 WomEngineers Welcome Dinner launched a new era for Engineering Vols on August 24 as a signature event for the college’s office of Women in Engineering (WiE) Programs. UT’s Smokey mascot and the Vols Dance Team helped welcome students to this high-energy evening of camaraderie for those beginning their first year at TCE, and for sophomores whose first-year experience was affected by the pandemic.
The students were engaged by inspirational talks from Barbie Bigelow, keynote speaker and Board of Advisors member; Bella Malone, industrial engineering senior; Ozlem Kilic, associate dean of academic and student affairs; and Jalonda Thompson, TCE director of WiE Programs. Dean Matthew Mench offered closing remarks.
The dinner introduced students to numerous engineering student organizations and offered them valuable connections with faculty and staff.
“It was really awesome being able to see what clubs and organizations are available to help me out and to learn more about all the different activities in the TCE,” said first-year computer science major Jules Prater, who shared a table with Bigelow, Associate Dean Kilic, and Dean Mench. “The dinner helped me to meet new people outside my discipline and first-year classes and gain a bigger picture of the college of engineering.”
Kilic gave opening remarks and announced Thompson’s directorship role, a new position created under academic and student affairs to lead the college’s women in engineering efforts for recruitment and retention of women to engineering at both undergraduate and graduate levels. She shared her personal experiences as a woman in engineering and encouraged students to not only be comfortable with being different, but embrace it to enable change and make a difference.
Bigelow (MS/CS ’85) is the co-founder and CEO of Emerald Growth Partners, LLC, where she advises private equity, boards, and leadership teams on investments including M&A, digital technology and value creation. She delivered tips on thriving and succeeding in engineering based on research and her personal experiences, sharing anecdotes and reminders to inspire and motivate this high-potential group of women.
Following her presentation, Thompson presented Bigelow with the college’s inaugural Women in Engineering Service Award, given to individuals who make significant contributions in advancing the college’s commitment to recruiting and retaining female students.
Student speaker Malone, president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), spoke about ways she overcame hesitations and applied herself to achieve three co-op rotations with FedEx Supply Chain through the office of Engineering Professional Practice, helping to organize WomEngineers Day, leading SHPE, and maintaining roles as a TCE Ambassador and a resident assistant.
“I wanted to give the advice that I needed when I started my journey here at UT,” said Malone. “I had amazing mentors that pushed me and eventually I learned to overcome my fears, but I wish I had known sooner that I already had everything I needed to succeed.”
Dean Mench thanked Malone with a gift from the college and encouraged students to seek connection opportunities at UT and beyond.
Led by Thompson, WiE strives to create a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive environment for undergraduate and graduate engineering students. From outreach to the advancement of women in engineering, WiE provides young girls and women with support resources and engaging programs to define their possibilities within engineering.
Co-sponsors for the dinner were Management Solutions, LLC, and Tim and Christine Covington.