October 31, 2013

In recognition of their outstanding efforts, three WPI students recently received scholarships through the Society of Women Engineers for the 2013–14 academic year.

SWE, a national nonprofit professional organization that encourages and recognizes women’s efforts in the field of engineering, has chapters across the country, including WPI’s SWE chapter. WPI’s group remains active all year long with workshops, social events, and several outreach programs for its more than 100 members.

Students often find out about opportunities through the scholarship workshops the chapter holds before deadlines approach, says Julia Sorcinelli, outreach coordinator, women’s programs, in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and WPI’s SWE chapter advisor.

Samee Swartz

Samee Swartz, a sophomore robotics engineering and computer science major, was thrilled to hear about her IBM Corporation scholarship award. Swartz, passionate about robotics, is planning for a master’s degree and eventual employment involving robotics or computer science, so every scholarship is helpful.

Swartz saw the opportunity posted and applied for it, appreciating SWE’s method of matching up relevant applications with specific scholarships, she says. As with any scholarship, there is extra work. She had to write an essay and fill out the required paperwork (a questionnaire) and file a transcript and references, but in the end the result is well worth the effort. “The scholarship is incredibly helpful for my family,” she says. “It relieves the financial burden of seeking out loans, and it makes it less stressful to go through college. It just gives me a little more leeway when I am in school.”

Emily Miner

Emily Miner, a senior mechanical engineering major, received the Praxair Inc. scholarship, one of several she came across during a search for scholarships for seniors. Miner, an active participant in SWE activities on campus, traveled to this year’s national SWE conference (Oct. 24–26, Baltimore), in part because of her scholarship, which will be presented, officially, at the conference. “It is a great opportunity for me,” she says.

WPI’s SWE events are especially useful for Miner. “I can’t imagine not participating,” she says, noting that her involvement even helped her when she needed to find judges for a conference she planned on campus last year. Miner says the award is especially meaningful to her because out of all the many women engineering students who applied, SWE chose her accomplishments as being worthy of the scholarship.

Valerie Butler

Valerie Butler, a graduate student majoring in aerospace engineering is this year’s recipient of the General Electric Women’s Network scholarship. Butler said in a recent email that she was involved in SWE activities as a WPI undergrad and then again as an intern this past summer at GE Aviation, where she was a member of GE’s SWE chapter. She will pick up her involvement again when she begins working there full-time next summer. The scholarship, says Butler, is a validation of all she has done. “Winning the SWE-General Electric Women’s Network scholarship demonstrates that my hard work, dedication, and future dreams have all been recognized,” she says.

Butler says the professional organizations give students a great financial boost through scholarships, but are also crucial to other development. “They are a great way to get involved on campus, meet lifelong friends, and, most important, help the community grow.” As a woman in engineering, Butler says SWE encourages women to make a lasting impact on the future. And as someone who knows how important SWE activities are to younger women who are studying engineering, Butler says she will continue to encourage other young women to pursue engineering careers.

Although the immediate impact of the scholarships is welcome, the students also gain other benefits that are less tangible, says Sorcinelli. “I think the big part is also all the professional development SWE offers,” she says, “and to have a community on campus to connect with.”

- By Julia Quinn-Szcesuil, photos by Louie Despres