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Campus Club Aims To Expand Opportunities For Women Engineers

SOCORRO, N.M. Sept. 16, 2009 – Among the student clubs at New Mexico Tech, the Society of Women Engineers is one of the more active academically and socially.

 Members of the Tech chapter of Society of Women Engineers pause for a photo during the club's carwash Saturday, Aug. 29. From left are Breanne Dunaway, Christine Polo, Ashley Arrossa, Alexis Martinez and Annamarie Lara. Courtesy Photo

Club president Alexis Martinez is excited for a new year of community outreach, fundraising, professional development, and academic advancement.

The club kicked off the year with a members’ meeting that attracted 22 students. Martinez said she was impressed with the turnout and the willingness of students to be active in the club.

“Our major goal is building our membership base,” Martinez said. “Another major is advancing New Mexico Tech’s strategic goals.”

A practical goal for the fall is to raise money to send club members to the annual SWE conference in Long Beach, Calif., in mid-October.

Club members staged a carwash in late August and are planning more fundraisers. Martinez said the conference is an excellent vehicle for students to connect with potential employers, to network with professionals, and to get inspired.

The club is open to all students, but a strong goal of the organization and the campus chapter is to bring more women into science, engineering, and technology careers.

The club’s outreach efforts include judging at the state Science Fair and the state Science Olympiad. The Tech women also host a special event for Girl Scouts – a “Science Sleepover” intended to interest young girls in pursuing their education in technical fields. The young girls also can earn a scout badge upon completion

The club also started a SWE Fitness program. Melissa Begay, physical fitness director at Tech, held an information health and wellness tour for members and has offered to meet with club members once a month  in the evening to help them develop fitness regimens.

 Members of the Society of Women Engineers show off their pride in their organization during their fund-raising carwash. From left are Alexyia Barraza, Ashley Arrossa, Alexis Martinez, Annamarie Lara, Breanne Dunaway, Divya Suryakumar and Christine Polo. Courtesy Photo

“Healthy body, healthy mind,” Martinez said. “Student health and student success go together.”

Membership in SWE comes with its perks. While at last year’s conference, Martinez secured an internship with Exelon in Kennett Square, Pa., for the summer of 2009. She worked on relicensing efforts for a hydroelectric dam.

“It was an amazing experience for me,” she said. “I interacted with the engineers and when I start looking for another job, I’ll know what to expect in the corporate culture. I learned a lot about networking, which is important for having a successful career.”

Environmental engineering major and club historian Christine Polo secured a scholarship by applying on the SWE national website. A native of Panama , Polo found difficulty with financial assistance, much of which is reserved for American students. The SWE scholarship will help her continue her education at New Mexico Tech.

In addition, petroleum engineering major and current SWE Vice President Breanne Dunaway recently received a SWE scholarship which will enable her to further her college career.

“We are definitely seeing benefits and amazing results from our membership in the Society of Women Engineers on a national level,” Martinez said.

The club members consider it part of their mission to help the university improve student retention and to increase enrollment. Martinez said she hopes the club can provide a forum for continued discussion about retention among students. The upperclass members of the club are volunteering to serve as peer mentors to help struggling students find resources to help them succeed at New Mexico Tech, she said.

Club member Breanne Dunaway gets busy during the SWE carwash.  Courtesy Photo

”The quality of education at New Mexico Tech is evident when our students compete on the national levels and succeed in gaining scholarships and internships,” Martinez said.

She also hopes to put together materials that will serve to help recruitment. For instance, several SWE members have completed high-profile internships and research positions. Martinez said the club is putting together a PowerPoint presentation that will focus on these opportunities for Tech students, in hopes that such a presentation will help recruiting efforts.

“High school students might not know that they have these opportunities when they come to Tech,” she said. “We hope to improve that.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech