College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Guest Post: Campus clubs act as support networks for students

Cara Petrie and Katherine Krettek

Cara Petrie and Katherine Krettek Cara Petrie (pictured on the right) is a senior in chemical engineering and the current president of Society for Women Engineers. Katherine Krettek (pictured on the left) is a junior in mechanical engineering with a minor in Spanish and the president-elect for SWE. 

Iowa State’s many campus clubs and organizations are great resources for students who want to get more involved with their majors, make new friends and build their resume. Iowa State’s Society of Women Engineers is one of those clubs. As dedicated members and leaders, being involved in SWE has enhanced our college experiences by allowing us to participate in its outreach programs, meetings and events.

One of the big events our club sponsors is the Senior Sleepover, which is an exciting and fun-filled weekend dedicated to showing high school girls what it’s like to be a college student at Iowa State and in engineering. The girls attend a class with one of our SWE members, attend a panel about life as a female in engineering, pick a few majors to learn more about, eat at the dining centers and visit the gym. This year’s sleepover had 34 girls who have applied or are coming to Iowa State for engineering. It’s a great experience for the girls, as well as our student volunteers.

We also stay very active as a group through our general meetings. Those occur every other week, and we bring in company representatives from industry to talk about what their company does and provide a professional development topic to our students. About 100 students come to those events, and they are always very engaged and asking questions. It’s a great way for our members to network not only with their peers, but with industry representatives as well.

As for what we gain by being a part of the club, the SWE kick-off picnic was where we both really started to connect with other female engineers on campus. It was great seeing upperclassmen who were so close to graduating and who had already gone through what we were about to go through. We could ask for advice, and they would tell us that we could make it on the days when engineering got tough. Without those role models, we would not be where we are today. It’s so important for us to have support and encouragement from other women who are forging new paths as engineers.

SWE gives students a little bit of everything—we have students from all engineering disciplines. It’s nationally recognized, so it’s a good way to connect with people anywhere you go. In November, SWE was recognized with the silver level Outstanding Collegiate Section award. We fill out and submit an activity log three times a year and a self-evaluation form in May. Based on those, our activities and an essay, the national organization gives awards to collegiate sections, and we were very proud to have our hard work acknowledged.

We even had 16 members from our section attend the WE13 national conference in Baltimore with 6,000 collegiate and professional members. It’s always great to see so many women in engineering in one place.

The College of Engineering here at Iowa State is a great place to start out in engineering—there are so many opportunities for us to excel in our chosen fields. Through clubs like SWE, we have outreach, networking, professional development, and social opportunities. All the clubs here are geared toward making sure students are successful, especially by helping us get internships that lead to exciting careers.