Saturday, February 21

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!!

This past week has been National Engineering Week, a week to celebrate all of the things engineers do for us in our everyday lives.  Friday in particular was introduce a girl to engineering day.  Surprisingly, there are still very few women in engineering today, despite the increase in popularity over the past few years.  Being at Purdue, it seems everywhere you turn there is an engineer behind you, male or female.  However, it is more likely that person is male.  

Research shows that girls and young women lose interest in subjects and the fields of study leading to engineering careers long before they enter college.

Ever since I was a little girl in elementary school, I was always encouraged to like math and science.  It ended up that I really did and still do enjoy solving problems in these subject areas.  I remember going to various "women in math" workshops where we would take a day off from regular school activities and spend our time doing fun math problems and working with other girls to solve them.  It was a really cool experience for me because I was able to use my love of math to work toward solving something that may have been too challenging in another setting.  Activities like these existed all through middle school and high school, although I did not take place in all of them.  

According to the National Engineers Week Foundation, only 20 percent of undergraduate engineers are women.  That's an improvement, but still not nearly as high as that number could be.  Being an aspiring engineer at Purdue, I find myself surrounded by guys in most of my classes.  Although there are plenty of girls in my classes as well, it is obvious that engineering is still a male dominated field.  It is the community's job to introduce girls to engineering, but once they have made the decision to become an engineer it is the job of their chosen university to keep them interested.

Purdue has a variety of programs for women in science and engineering to participate in and become associated with.  The biggest organization in this area is the Society of Women Engineers.  This is a national organization, with one of its biggest branches being right here at Purdue.  I am involved with this group and it is one of my favorite groups on campus because it is filled with fun, normal girls who are diverse and interesting.  We have social gatherings, such as a spring dance, and we also do community service and host a job fair in the spring semester.  It is a great organization for a female in engineering to get involved in because it sets you up with some resources and older people to talk to who have already been through the things you are going through.

Other organizations that Purdue has to offer for women in engineering, science and technology include Phi Sigma Rho, a social sorority for women in these fields, and WIEP, the Women in Engineering Program.  Both of these organizations have their benefits.  Phi Sigma Rho is a social sorority which is comprised of women with the understanding that they are all in challenging majors, so there is a very flexible committment schedule compared to other social greek life.  WIEP has a mentor programs which sets up a first year engineering student with an older student who meets with them regularly and checks to see how classes are going throughout the year.  All three of these organizations do a great job at making women feel like they are not alone in their pursuit of a major in a male dominated field.

Friday, February 20

International Friendship Day

College can be a terrifying place.  Being on your own on a big, scary, unfamiliar campus can be lonely and make you feel very uncomfortable.  However, I have found something really great about college, you are never really alone.  There is always someone in the dorm room, study carol, or classroom next to you going through the exact same thing you are.  The only thing you have to do is step outside of your small world and meet these people!

When I came to college I knew very few people.  There were about 12 people who came to Purdue from my graduating class and a few more from earlier classes.  So naturally, at first I called those people up to hang out in my free time because it gets tiring having to introduce yourself to fifty new people a day.  People find comfort in having people around who come from the same background as they do, and that's ok for a while.  However, in order to become a more fulfilled and open-minded person, you need to branch out and meet all types of people.

My BGR leader told our group a great quote about trying new things,
There is no growth in your comfort zone, and no comfort in your growth zone.
I found this quote to be increasingly true as my early college days went on.  Experiencing things for the first time is scary! Think about your first day of classes, your first lunch in the dining courts, or your first exam in Elliot Hall...all potentially terrifying things.  However, once you got over the initial feelings of discomfort, you open yourself up to a world of new possibilities.

The same goes for making new friends.  College is the perfect place to find the biggest variety of people you may ever see.  Each person has something different to offer and it is really amazing to see all of these unique personalities come together in one place.  It is the time to find who you really are and be that person.  By being yourself and staying true to that, you are going to meet far more people than if you just join every club you see a flyer for or if you don't go out there and try in the first place.  

In high school, people were so concerned with what group they were associated with that they really didn't give themselves a chance to open up and let people see who they really were.  College life really has a laid-back feel that allows people to be themselves and share that with other people.  I have met such a diverse group of people from California to Connecticut and even some from far away countries.  It is really cool to see how someone who lives miles away, goes through so many of the same things as you do on a daily basis.  

If you really allow yourself to just be yourself, you will be able to find a mixture of friends who share some aspect of your life.  Whether it be my love of music, my passion for delicious food, or my enjoyment of exercise, I have found at least one person who shares one of these qualities with me, and I have made some really wonderful friendships out of it.