Society of Women Engineers blazes a trail, wins two national honors

October 31, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was recently recognized with two national awards.

The chapter received the Outstanding Collegiate Section (OCS) Gold Award, the highest possible collegiate recognition, during the SWE National Conference Oct. 23-25 in Los Angeles.

The society was also named the winner of the national Stilettos to Steel Toes Contest, sponsored by Schlumberger.

The SWE OCS Awards were first established in 1975 to recognize outstanding collegiate sections and encourage continuous improvement and growth of each section.

They recognize measurable, year-long impact in outreach, professional excellence, membership recruitment and innovative, and new or expanded activities.

Award levels include certificate of participation, certificate of merit, bronze, silver and gold.

Ashlee Palm, senior in mechanical engineering and SWE communications director, was a member last year when the group received the silver award. "We were thrilled to bring home the gold award this year."

She added that the Penn State chapter is so successful, in part, due to having more than 350 members. "At the conference, women from other national SWE chapters were asking us how we keep so many women involved in the society."

For the fourth consecutive year, Penn State's SWE was named the grand prize winner in Schlumberger's From Stilettos to Steel Toes Essay Contest.

To enter, SWE collegiate members from colleges across the country submitted essays explaining why a nontraditional job is the way to go. The essay prompt was "How will you blaze your own trail?"

Penn State's SWE chapter beat 35 competing universities by submitting 336 essays. It was a close contest: Penn State submitted one more essay than the second place team, McGill University in Montreal. Texas Tech University, Ohio State University and Georgia Tech rounded out the top five with 113, 109 and 94 essays, respectively.

The chapter will receive $100 for each essay, up to the first 150 essays, as well as $2,000 for submitting the most essays, for a total of $17,000.

Danielle Roethlein, a senior in petroleum and natural gas engineering, said her essay focused on her desire to push the limits that have been set for female engineers. "I have faced many situations in which I was told that I wasn't able to take part in jobs that my male counterparts were working on, so I coordinate with supervisors or lab teaching assistants to allow me to take 'baby steps.' I don't expect them to be comfortable with me lifting iron or using a power saw right from the start, but if I can get them to see my abilities at any point during a project, I feel like I've succeeded."

Mechanical engineering junior Cassandra Baum said the contest incites young engineering women to think about how they will conquer their dreams and aspirations. "I have a strong interest in the natural gas industry, so I found the word 'blaze' to be fitting to my projected career path."

Ellen Fagan, SWE vice president of corporate relations and industrial engineering senior, said the prize money will be used for future programming. "We will also purchase SWE track jackets as a thank you for all who participated, so they can show off their Penn State SWE pride."

Cheryl Knobloch, Women in Engineering Program director and Penn State SWE counselor, noted, "Competition is fierce for the highest national recognition acknowledging measurable year-long impact. Penn State SWE members epitomize the attributes of a world-class engineer. They consistently commit to excellence and creatively generate innovative programming to advance their engineering peers and enrich our college. Their well-deserved recognition distinguishes them as visionary leaders and models for collegiate SWE chapters nationwide. We are very proud of their accomplishments."

Schlumberger is the world's leading supplier of technology, integrated project management and information solutions to customers working in the oil and gas industry worldwide.

SWE is a nonprofit educational and professional organization dedicated to the advancement of women in engineering. The society also recognizes members for their life-changing contributions as engineers and leaders.

  • Society of Women Engineers in Los Angeles

    Penn State Society of Women Engineers members get ready for the awards banquet at the national conference in Los Angeles.

    IMAGE: Penn State Society of Women Engineers
Last Updated November 03, 2014