Science & Technology

Engineering: girls allowed

The Society of Women Engineers is the largest non-profit educational and service organization representing both student and professional women in engineering and technical fields. The University of West Florida chapter has 10 members so far and expects membership to increase once the new School of Science and Engineering opens in the spring of 2010. The UWF chapter is active at both the national and local level.

In October, UWF students attended the society’s annual conference where they met corporate representatives and participated in a career fair. Lisa Vallin, a junior majoring in engineering who serves as secretary for the UWF chapter, has attended the conference for the past two years. “It is an amazing experience to meet so many men and women in the same field as you, all supporting each other and, more importantly, supporting women in engineering since it is still slowly becoming part of the ‘norm’.”

The Society for Women Engineers is not just for women, though. It is a society that supports women in engineering. So, regardless of gender, the mission stays the same: to stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.

True to its mission, a professional member took Vallin under her wing during the career fair at this year’s conference and introduced her to representatives of Barclays Capital, an international investment bank. Vallin is now set to intern for them in New York City this summer. There, she’ll work on coding and programming projects for 10 weeks.

“I am really excited to have this opportunity to learn, grow, and live in such a different location from what I am use to,” said Vallin. “I am hoping to use this experience to help me in the future. With all this experience, I eventually want to become a software engineer.”

Aiming to inspire young adults to consider becoming engineers when they “grow up,” the UWF chapter also engages in community outreach programs. Last spring and this fall, UWF students worked with local Girl Scouts by planning a full day of events, helping them complete the required activities to earn the “Build a Better Future” badge and the “Maps, Math and More” badge.

“It was a fun day for us and the Girl Scouts to see what our school has to offer,” said Vallin. “We try to show the girls that engineering isn’t all math and science, but that it really takes teamwork to get things done. We are hoping to do another outreach project in the spring.”

The UWF SWE chapter is supported in part through donations from the Harris Corporation. To learn more about the chapter, visit or e-mail To learn more about the engineering program at UWF, visit

Written by Lauren Smith, University Marketing Communications