Women Students Gather Early at Penn Engineering
This year, 51 women engineers decided to start school a little early. They were part of a group of incoming freshmen who participated in the Penn Engineering Pre-Orientation Program for Women, sponsored by the school’s Advancing Women in Engineering (AWE) program.
Up from 19 participants last year (that’s over a 170% increase!) these women came to campus for 4 days before the start of regular new student orientation in order to meet fellow women engineers, including students, faculty and staff. Many of this year’s program volunteers were participants as freshmen last year and chose to give back to the program that they found so helpful.
“These women are given a unique opportunity in this program,” says Michele Grab, Director of AWE. “They are able to make lasting friendships from this experience and as a result are more confident and active in the school. Even at the end of the academic year, I still see these girls hanging out together in groups on campus.” Grab states that programs like these are becoming increasingly important to the efforts of Penn Engineering to both attract and retain female students. She notes that it is one thing to attract a student initially, but that in order for the student to feel comfortable and happy in the school, they need to know that there is a critical mass of students like themselves.
“The program was a great opportunity because I was given the chance to meet some of my peers before being thrown into the hectic hustle-and-bustle that is the first few weeks of freshman year,” said Kathleen Golangco Llontop, a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. “Being able to identify some of the faces on campus and, particularly, in some of my classes gave me a feeling of confidence and comfort I could not have felt if I had not taken part in the program and met these girls.”
This program was not your typical orientation full of getting-to-know-you name games and stunts. The women were able to interact with a panel of women engineering faculty, consisting of Beth Winkelstein, Cherie Kagan, and Jennifer Lukes. Drs. Winkelstein and Kagan were both undergraduates at Penn, so having the opportunity to meet and talk to these women about their experiences in engineering was invaluable.
Participants also had the opportunity to speak to John Keenan, Vice Dean of Student Affairs, about the ins and outs of academic advising, and spent time in the computer lab setting up all those necessary accounts and passwords. To stretch their legs, the women were sent around the school on an Engineering Treasure Hunt.
This year the program proved so popular that the trolley car that was used last year on a sightseeing trip was replaced by a double-decker bus, the only vehicle to be had to transport everyone around town. Only time will tell what will be needed next year.