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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Computer Engineering major
Meet Lillie – a UMBC CWIT Scholar!
Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.
My introduction into the STEM world was my parents. They are both in STEM fields, and like most parents, they wanted me to follow in their footsteps. Fortunately for them, my favorite subject in school was math, so getting interested into STEM wasn’t very difficult. In high school I toke several engineering courses through a program called Project Lead the Way. In this program, my favorite course was Digital Electronics. However, UMBC doesn’t offer an undergrad for electrical engineering so I came in undeclared. At my orientation, I was trying to select a specific computer course, however to get in to it, I had to declare myself as computer engineering major
Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.
For Rockets and More, we do various outreach programs. During these outreach events we have anywhere from 20 to 150 middle school students building and launching water bottle rockets using launchers that we, as a club, designed and built ourselves. Not only do we have the students launch rockets, but we also talk to them about the physics behind rocketry and get them thinking about what choices they made to make their rockets optimal. I particularly love these kinds of events, because it’s not just about doing really fun and awesome STEM things, it’s also about sharing my love with others and maybe even inspiring them to be interested in STEM as well.
Who are your role models in the engineering or IT field? How have their stories influenced your educational or career goals?
While I wouldn’t exactly say she is my role model, I definitely would say she has given me the best advice. She is one of my friend’s mom and she received her degree in electrical engineering. After many years working in the industry as an electrical engineer, she learned that she really wasn’t meant to be an engineer. She found that she actually preferred the people aspect, and moved towards working in the finance department. She told me, “If you are going to screw up your life by choosing the wrong degree, do it with an engineering degree.” This is what made me decide I wanted to be an engineer. No matter where life takes me, engineering won’t be just a degree I earn, or a job I acquire, it will be a way of thinking, and a way to solve problems no matter what those problems may be.
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?
I have never really been concerned about being a woman in the STEM field. While it is not ideal to be one of three girls in a classroom full of students, I have never felt like I didn’t belong, or wasn’t as qualified. Though I have had a couple instances where people have told me they thought what I was doing was too hard, whether that is because I am a woman or just because I am me, it doesn’t matter. Those people don’t bother me, because they are not the ones that matter in life. All our lives there will be someone who doesn’t believe in us, but there is also someone who does. I have found those people both in CWIT and outside of CWIT, both female and male. It’s all about finding those people who bring you up, and forgetting about those who don’t.
“All our lives there will be someone who doesn’t believe in us, but there is also someone who does.” – Lillie
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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.