December 2, 2023

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the eighth consecutive year, the Penn State Society of Women Engineers received the Outstanding Collegiate Section Gold Mission Award at the annual SWE national conference (WE21), the largest conference for women in engineering and technology. The Penn State student section of the national organization was also recognized, for the first time, with an award for Best Practice in Communication: Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion.

According to the SWE website, SWE’s mission is to empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders. SWE aims to advance the image of engineering professions as a positive force to improve the quality of life and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion. The society’s OCS Gold Mission Award is the highest possible collegiate recognition within the national organization. 

WE21 took place Oct. 21-23 in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year’s theme was “Aspire to Inspire.” The event — which also included virtual components — hosted a career fair, various informational sessions, networking activities, an award reception and keynotes from women in industry: Stephanie Hill, executive vice president of rotary and mission systems at Lockheed Martin; Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens USA; and Patti Pope, chief executive officer of PG&E.  

Each year, SWE honors numerous SWE collegiate sections from across the country with its Mission Awards. According to the SWE website, the recipients of this award embody the SWE core values and demonstrate continuous improvement and growth while working to achieve the society’s strategic goals.

“Penn State SWE has a 68-women leadership team that is dedicated to creating events and opportunities for members to enhance professionally and in aspects of service, diversity and inclusion and socially,” said Erin Anderson, fourth-year undergraduate student in civil engineering and director of personal enhancement for Penn State SWE. “I think what sets us apart from other sections is the size of our leadership team. Having such a dedicated group of women to SWE really helps us to create great events and makes it fun for everyone.”

Penn State SWE was not only recognized for their efforts to represent SWE’s national motto, “Advance, Aspire and Achieve,” but also for their achievements in diversity and inclusion. 

“Our ambitious Penn State SWE section consistently goes above and beyond to exceed expectations and scale impact,” said Cheryl Knobloch, senior director of the Penn State Women in Engineering Program and Penn State SWE adviser. “Despite seemingly insurmountable hurdles in a pandemic, our members commit to excellence and innovatively generate programming to advance their engineering peers and enrich our college. Receiving the national Gold Mission Award for the eighth year is an extraordinary achievement, and we are equally proud of the explicit recognition of their diversity and inclusion excellence. The competition for national recognition is fierce and distinguishes our section as visionary leaders and a model for SWE collegiate sections nationwide.”

The Best Practice in Communication: Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion honor recognized Penn State SWE’s efforts in building an inclusive and equity-minded environment for its members, including the introduction of a new series of events focused on educational activities and discussions around diversity and inclusion. 

“The diversity and inclusion branch of Penn State SWE has been instrumental in educating members on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and making us aware of advocacy events going on around campus,” Anderson said. “We started a movie watch club and have had book clubs that discuss diversity and inclusion topics.”

Penn State SWE, founded in 1975, is one of the largest active engineering organizations on campus with over 250 members. The Penn State section participates in numerous campus-wide events every year, including THON, homecoming and spirit events and hosts professional development sessions, networking opportunities and various social activities for its members. 

“SWE is a community full of people who understand the struggles of being underrepresented in the field and in the classroom,” said Klaudia Bak, third-year undergraduate student in architectural engineering and service and development officer for Penn State SWE. “That common experience allows us to uplift one another and makes it so important that we share resources and knowledge for every woman in engineering to succeed.”

More information, including how to get involved with Penn State SWE, can be found on the section’s website.