Collegiate Director’s Letter

I hope March is going well for you!

One of the things I have been looking forward to most this March has been Congressional Visits Days, which I will write more about in my April All Together letter. We are also right in the middle of region conference season—have you attended your region’s conference yet? I had a great time at Region G’s conference a few weeks ago, where I got to attend some interesting sessions and connect with some new SWEsters, and I am also excited to be attending the Region F conference in a few weeks.

If you have already been to your region’s conference, you may have noticed that this year’s State of SWE included some discussion of the SWE values. I don’t think the SWE values are something that we generally spend a lot of time thinking about, so I wanted to spend some time reflecting on what the SWE values mean and why they matter. For those who don’t know, SWE has five values: professional excellence, inclusive environment, integrity, mutual support and trust. In a collegiate context, SWE exists among dozens or hundreds of other clubs and social organizations that are often seen as our competitors. But SWE is a professional organization, not just a social group, and we exist in a larger context than just our campus environment. What we do in our SWE sections reflects on our school, the Society and the engineering profession. This means that when we plan SWE events we have to think about how they will be perceived by outsiders.

Consider the ‘Mr. Engineer’ pageants that are held at some collegiate sections. Many of these events are competitions meant as fun fundraisers for SWE sections, but have received criticism from sponsors and recruiters. If you are a sponsor or recruiter looking in from the outside, the idea of a ‘Mr. Engineer’ pageant doesn’t necessarily sound inclusive or professional at first glance. Think about the kind of criticism a company would receive for holding an event like this and you can see why sponsors and recruiters may have a negative reaction to this sort of event, even if it wasn’t intended to be offensive. I wrote last month about needing the support of the majority to help move women and minorities forward—this is where SWE’s mutual support value ties in.

As a professional society, we do have to think about the larger implications and perspectives on events that we hold, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun. It’s all about achieving a balance. If your board works hard all year, it’s okay to take them out for ice cream to celebrate their achievements. Social events can be a good way to relax, meet new people and build up a support network. But if social events are all we do we’re not really serving our role as a professional society. Conversely, professional development is important, but if all we did was host professional development events we may not be seen as a fun or inviting group, and without that we may not be able to recruit members who are able to provide professional development. With all the roles SWE serves for us, sometimes it can be hard to strike a balance. When we do, it is very rewarding to be able to experience professional growth and support in the inclusive environment that is SWE.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, comments or ideas at collegiate-director@swe.org.

Ellen McIsaac

Ellen McIsaac
FY14 Collegiate Director
Collegiate-director@swe.org

Letter from the All Together SWE Newsletter

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