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R-MC Macon Women Engineers Club Earns Affiliate Status

Jun 21, 2017


women engineers in GuatemalaThe Randolph-Macon College Macon Women Engineers club recently earned Affiliate status with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Engineering Professor James McLeskey Jr., who serves as advisor to the Macon Women Engineers, says the group was founded by students who were inspired by what they experienced during a trip to Guatemala.

"In 2016, three engineering physics majors—Dorie Parry '18, Ashley Easterling '19 and Haylie Moore '19—traveled to Guatemala to design and build a 'tire wall' to stop erosion at the end of a soccer field," explains McLeskey. "Deforestation and development in this region has caused storm water runoff leading to erosion and landslides."

picture of student with engineering projectThe group traveled with Ray Martin, a member of Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church and a licensed civil engineer who has traveled to the region many times for a variety of engineering-related projects. He is a friend and supporter of both the college and the Engineering Physics program and he organized the 2016 trip with R-MC engineering physics students in mind.

Working with Martin, the students created a design using old car tires to support the edge of the field and then worked with members of the local community to build the wall. Inspired by the work being done in Guatemala to empower women in the community, the students decided to start the Macon Women Engineers club.

Parry in particular was excited about the idea and wrote to McLeskey.

"Dorie is a transfer student from Sweet Briar, and she said that the trip reminded her that she first chose to attend Sweet Briar because she wanted to gain confidence, and to make friends who would be invaluable to her in a career in a heavily male-dominated field," recalls McLeskey. "The trip to Guatemala reminded her of the importance and influence that community groups have."

A Sense of Community
Dorie engineering projectParry hoped that a club for women engineers would boost members’ self-esteem and morale so that they can continue to pursue their dreams outside of the group.

"Female engineering students are more likely to switch majors than their male colleagues who are performing at the same level," says Parry. "My hope is that the club can assist in retaining female students who are pursuing engineering physics at R-MC by creating a greater sense of community."

A Milestone
Parry and several other students worked with the staff in Student Life to create a formal club, which was implemented November 17, 2016.

Once the on-campus group was in place, the members applied for it to be part of the national Society of Women Engineers.

"SWE has two kinds of student groups: Chapters and Affiliates," explains Parry. "Over the course of the spring 2017 semester, our group submitted the required application materials, and on April 10, 2017, we were notified that we had been formally accepted as a SWE Affiliate section."

picture of student with engineering projectThe group has held several meetings including hosting a Skype presentation by Ashley Coleman, a woman engineer from Duke Energy, and a presentation by Parry, Easterling and Moore about their trip to Guatemala.

"The formation of this new student group is really a testament to the hard work of these students," says McLeskey. "This is truly a milestone for R-MC's Engineering Physics program."

Engineering Physics at R-MC
Engineering Physics prepares students for challenging, multi-disciplinary careers.

From advanced computing to innovative medical treatments to groundbreaking new technologies, engineering is at the forefront of some of the most exciting developments of the century. For students interested in an engineering career, the engineering physics major at Randolph-Macon College offers both a thorough foundation in the discipline as well as the broad-based education essential for success in a global economy.