With graduation rapidly approaching I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my experience at USC, particularly as a woman in engineering. To be honest, I haven’t noticed a difference in my experience compared to my guy friends in engineering or USC in general. While my classes aren’t 50% girls, the ratio is high enough that I don’t even notice it in my classes. I’ve had such an incredible experience at USC, from my classes to doing research to studying abroad, and participating in student orgs, club sports, and greek life.
Like most of you, I had some questions about what it meant to be a woman in engineering, I’d heard many things about it, but I didn’t know what my own experience would be. Growing up, my dad was an electrical engineer, and since I showed an interest in math and science, he always encouraged me to learn more about math, science, and engineering. I attended various conferences and workshops over the years on science and engineering exploration. I even got to meet Sally Ride at one event! But it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I knew that I wanted to study engineering, specifically civil engineering, in college. I was particularly interested in architectural engineering programs, which led me to USC’s Civil Engineering (Building Science) program. My building science class only has 8 students, and 4 are girls!
Since my freshman year I’ve been really involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), which has proven to be a great support network for me within engineering. SWE has so many awesome girls that I’ve gotten to know better through our social activities, and we’ve worked together to improve our leadership and networking skills through corporate events. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend SWE’s National Conference the past three years (read about the last one here), and the Regional Conference the past two years! We also do community service events with younger girls, especially Girl Scouts, to show them how fun math and science can be. I love being able to inspire potential future women engineers at events like this! The friends I’ve made through SWE have been my study partners in my engineering classes, and have become some of my closest friends in college.
Outside of engineering, I’ve also loved being involved with other organizations and activities at USC. I’ve loved playing lacrosse and enjoyed serving as team president last year. I’ve also become very close friends with the girls in my sorority Gamma Phi Beta, which has been my main outlet from engineering. My freshman and sophomore years I had the opportunity to do research as an assistant at the USC Center on Megacities, researching alternative energy sources and the possibility of using renewable energy to power cities the size of Los Angeles. I even went sailing last fall with four other engineers, through USC’s sailing class!
My favorite experience so far in college was studying abroad two summers ago through the Viterbi Summer Overseas program (read my blogs about the summer here and here). I had the time of my life in Madrid, taking classes for 7 weeks and exploring Europe with 30 other Viterbi Engineers. Fellow VSA Kat was actually one of my roommates on the trip! Last summer, I interned at The Boeing Company in El Segundo as a mechanical engineering intern, and this summer I will be returning home to San Diego to intern for Turner Construction.
I’m incredibly proud to say that I’m a woman in engineering, and have had the best experience as a student at USC and Viterbi. If you have any questions about my experience as a female engineering student, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Fight On!
Very nice article, Natalie. One of my best friends from grade school (on our math team, hehe) became an engineer as well. She is ahead of me, a partner at a major Bay Area firm. I did the Marine thing for a few years first. But, I am very glad to be an engineer.
First time I heard of SWE. Thanks for sharing.