Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Claudette Dupont

March is Women’s History Month!

Two  years ago Women’s History Month’s national theme was “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored this theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields. Three years later, we still find it meaningful and important to continue spotlighting the stories of UMBC’s CWIT women and with the 2015 theme of “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” there’s no better time than now to continue weaving the stories of our campus ITE women into the fabric of women’s history and current day lived experiences. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 3rd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.

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Claudette Dupont
Mechanical Engineering
CWIT T-Site Scholar

Meet Claudette!

Meet Claudette!

Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.

After graduating from high school in 2003, I pursued a career in the sport of showing dogs in American Kennel Club dog shows. I was nationally ranked in Junior Handling and placed in big-ticket events including The Westminster Kennel Club show. For over ten years, I worked for some of the most well-known professional dog handlers in the country, but in the summer of 2009 I injured myself and decided I needed a more secure career. Dog showing will always be my hobby, but I wanted to go to community college to get a business degree so I could manage my own dog-boarding kennel.

So how did I go from dog handler to mechanical engineer?

Claudette during her dog show days.

Claudette during her dog show days.

While I was pursuing my Business Administration Degree at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) I participated in seminars on renewable energy sources. Through these seminars, I met a project engineer from Constellation Energy group, and after listening to his seminar I asked him how he got his job – I thought it was fascinating. He explained that he had a Mechanical engineering degree and a MBA and he encouraged me to switch majors; in the same week I applied for an engineering scholars program for women and minorities at AACC. This program helped me explore engineering and introduced me to UMBC, where I was later accepted into the Center for Women in Technology T-SITE scholars program for transfer students. I have been very fortunate to have met such a great group of scholars and mentors.

Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.

I worked as an engineering assistant and drafter for Siemens Building Technologies in Beltsville Maryland for over 2 years. I recently accepted an internship offer for this summer at Johnson, Miriam and Thompson, a multi-disciplined architectural/engineering employee owned company.

Who are your role models in the engineering or IT field? How have their stories influenced your educational or career goals?

I was inspired by William Kamkwamba when I read his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. He was an impressive boy who built a windmill to power a few electrical appliances in his family’s house in Masitala using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. I was inspired because he was someone who had little resources but wanted to learn and make a change in his life for the positive, which brings me to my own personal difficulties – specifically, overcoming learning challenges. I was in special education in grade school and never wanted to go to college because I thought it was unattainable. However, with the help of the Khan Academy from Salman Khan I was able to learn and tackle the math and science needed to succeed in engineering. Salman Khan, who earned three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MBA from Harvard Business School, has made learning attainable for those who just need a good teacher.

Explain your experience as a woman in a STEM major working with other women in STEM. How have you used each other to support your work and persevere in male-dominated fields?

Unfortunately, women in engineering in the HVAC field are a rarity, and I had to find support from women in the office who were not in STEM positions. Diversity in STEM fields is extremely important and I would like to mentor the next generation of young women in STEM, and I recommend looking for employers that embrace diversity.

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The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.

For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit the Women’s Center myUMBC group page.

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