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Empowering Engineering Programs

Several SDSU programs are helping female student engineers break the mold.
SDSU engineering students Alexis Mendoza, Jennifer Wood, Ana Morino, Annah Rulon and Vanessa Bundy.
SDSU engineering students Alexis Mendoza, Jennifer Wood, Ana Morino, Annah Rulon and Vanessa Bundy.

This story is part of a series exploring women in engineering at SDSU.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. At San Diego State University, female students studying engineering not only get by — they thrive.

Through programs geared specifically to help females gain ground in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — these students are well on their way to defining what it is to be a successful, well-rounded engineering major.

From the time they step foot on campus, the more than 400 undergraduate women in SDSU’s engineering program participate in living communities that help them become acclimated with like-minded engineering students. They join major-oriented clubs and sororities and take on projects like constructing a rocket from scratch.

Jennifer Wood, a senior aerospace engineering major, has no reservations talking about power tools and aerodynamics. She credits the programs at SDSU for helping her adjust into a male-dominated major.

“Since freshman year, I have been creating bonds with other women in the STEM majors. From bonding in the dorms, to being a part of a professional sorority and participating in the Rocket Project — all of these programs have helped lessen the culture shock of being one of the few female engineering students,” Wood said.

Here are just some of the SDSU programs that are helping female student engineers, like Wood, break the mold:

WiSE Residential Learning Community

Through SDSU Housing, the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Residential Learning Community supports female students interested in majors and careers in the STEM disciplines. The program helps students make important connections with students in related majors.

Society of Women Engineers

The SDSU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers works to support women academically and socially in the field of engineering. The organization is open to anyone who supports female engineers. It provides members with resources and support to be successful leaders in engineering careers. SDSU’s chapter participates in several events each year that incorporate networking and scholarship opportunities, outreach events focusing on young women engineers and community service.

Alpha Omega Epsilon

Alpha Omega Epsilon, a professional sorority for women studying engineering and technical science has grown tremendously since it’s induction on SDSU’s campus in 2011. The sorority is composed of females majoring in engineering or technical sciences. It promotes scholarship and academic achievement, while developing lifelong friendships. Alpha Omega Epsilon encourages self-confidence and professionalism, works to strengthen relationships between students and faculty, fosters leadership and provides networking opportunities for its members.

Alexis Mendoza and Vanessa Bundy work on the rocket at an SDSU Rocket Project launch.
Alexis Mendoza and Vanessa Bundy work on the rocket at an SDSU Rocket Project launch.

Project Lead the Way

SDSU is a university partner for the program Project Lead the Way. Designed to serve elementary, middle, and high school students of diverse backgrounds who are interested in STEM-related careers, the program has been a stepping stone for many of SDSU’s female engineering majors. From early on, the program’s comprehensive curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real-world problem solving that help students establish a proven path to college and career success in STEM related industries.

Engineers Without Borders

SDSU’s Engineers Without Borders chapter enthuses students to experience a hands-on application of material learned in class. Established in 2007, the SDSU chapter encourages students to participate in international engineering projects. One of the organization’s more recent projects included helping a Honduran community access clean water. With a team including female engineering students, the chapter designed a solution for improving water quality, fixing leaks throughout the pipe network and installing a more efficient disinfection system.

Rocket Project

SDSU’s Rocket Project was founded in 2003, by a group of aerospace engineering students, which included alumni Brandon Florow and Joey Brown who are currently working on the Mars Rover Project in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. The project has since grown to include several female engineering students who have helped design, fabricate and launch at total of 5 rockets. The team’s latest project, the rocket, “Ender” is estimated to launch in 2014.

“When you go from hanging out with girlfriends in high school to surrounding yourself with classrooms full of men in college, these programs become very important,” Wood said. “I always advise new female students to join at least one professional organization or society and one project-based organization. They will not only make lifelong friends, they will have mentors and gain field experience.”

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