The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is one of Embry-Riddle Prescott’s largest student organizations, and for good reason. The society boasts national membership, annual conferences, career and job opportunities, and great social events. Recent alumna Hannah Morris has had outstanding experiences with SWE, in college and beyond, and wanted to share her story.
“When I was a junior, I joined SWE. The chapter was very small and disorganized at the time, maybe ten members,” Morris recalls. In the three academic semesters that Morris was a SWE member, the group started to get its footing. “The momentum grew tremendously in the first one and a half years I was there,” she said. “I think we grew to 60 members by the time I graduated.”
Morris was privileged to attend SWE’s national Women Engineers (WE) conference that first year, financially supported by family and the only member of the local chapter to go. From the conference’s career fair, she actually scored an internship with Spirit AeroSystems, where she works today. “Those conferences continue to amaze me,” said Morris, who has attended every year since. “They have an enormous career fair; I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Like Morris, the current ERAU Prescott Collegiate SWE Chapter President Ashley Fitzpatrick sees the conferences as a major draw for the organization, especially now that the group is established enough to finance attendance. “I was sponsored to attend the national conference, WE18, last year in Minneapolis where I received multiple internship offers during the career fair,” said Fitzpatrick. “I happily accepted a position with one of my top desired companies!”
In addition to the opportunities offered by the annual convention, the Society of Women Engineers supports female professionals socially, too. “When I graduated, I moved to Witchita, and I didn’t really know anybody. The local SWE section reached out to me and got me connected to the community,” said Morris of the social and community aspect. The local organization helped Morris quickly feel welcomed to the foreign area, and has many members that work at her company, too.
Likewise, Fitzpatrick has found an instant connection in the SWE community on campus. “I have made so many friendships through SWE that I genuinely believe will last a lifetime!” said Fitzpatrick, who will be a bridesmaid next year for the last chapter president. “It’s such a healthy environment to be in with so many supportive ladies that all want to see each other succeed.” SWE’s weekly meetings on campus are a positive, uplifting place to be, from the fun and games to the educational sessions.
SWE membership goes beyond a collegiate extracurricular. “I got involved professionally immediately,” said Morris of the time after her graduation. She quickly became the Regional Secretary for the Kansas area, a position which she held for two years before taking on her local section presidency for one. “It’s an opportunity to grow as a leader in a relatively safe environment,” she said, “which I really needed as a young engineer who didn’t get those opportunities at work.”
The local section mirrors this emphasis on growing as a leader. “SWE’s primary focus is professional development,” according to Fitzpatrick. “Our overall goal is to help each woman meet her fullest potential as an engineer and leader.” The organization invests in its members by hosting professional speakers, educational presentations, industry representatives, and more.
For those on the fence, Fitzpatrick wholeheartedly encourages membership: “The best aspect of SWE is that this organization provides endless tools for each member to utilize. Social events allow you to gain friendships among your female peers, presentations and speakers allow you to develop professionally and gain an edge on your classmates, leadership opportunities allow you to gain leadership experience, and our three committees: Research, Competition, and Outreach allow you to expand your resume and gain hands-on engineering experience.”
All of the local section meetings and events are completely free! However, becoming a SWE national member for a discounted collegiate rate gives access to conference attendance, private hiring opportunities, and scholarships. “As a tentative new member you can look forward to creating friendships and obtaining professional development for absolutely free! Becoming a collegiate member by attending SWE meetings and campus events are entirely free, so you have nothing to lose!” says Fitzpatrick.
The local Society of Women Engineers has exclusive relationships with companies that visit for the Career Expo, puts on regular social events for its members, and is the driving force behind the key annual attraction of STEM Exploration Day! Interested students are advised to check out a weekly SWE meeting in STEM (Building 76) Room 123 on Mondays at 7:00 p.m.