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Women in Engineering Program

About Notre Dame’s WEP

Notre Dame initiated the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) in 2002 to address the low enrollment and persistence of women in engineering majors.  The program focuses on providing ways for women to enrich their engineering experience, while also identifying and removing any barriers to their success.  WEP research has identified curricular and extracurricular changes that have enhanced the experience of women on campus and have led to tremendous success. For example, in 2002, only 45 percent of women who started in engineering persisted in the program as sophomores, compared to 62 percent of men. By 2004, more than 70 percent of both women and men persisted in the program, and today nearly 80 percent continue in engineering as sophomores.  Moreover, the enrollment of women has climbed from 25 percent of each class to 33 percent.  And, a unique partnership with Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, provides opportunities for students at the all-women’s college to earn an engineering degree from Notre Dame while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or mathematics at Saint Mary’s.


The primary vehicle by which WEP delivers programming is through Notre Dame’s collegiate section of the Society of Women Engineers, whose events are open to all.

Programming

Programming includes a wide variety of experiences for female undergraduate and graduate engineering students, designed to maximize the opportunity for female students to interact with each other, with faculty and with practicing engineers to learn from them and to develop a sense of community with others facing the same challenges.

SWE activities offered yearly include:

  • Social activities for community building, including a first-year welcome picnic, holiday-themed gatherings and senior send-off.
  • Professional development activities, including a leadership day featuring a guest speaker on the subject of leadership and professional development and some other professional skills-development interactive workshop, speakers from industry and networking with faculty.
  • Service activities, also for community building, a Girl Scout badge workshop for over 100 local Girl Scouts, a “fun run” that raises money for other service organizations on campus, and other events that raise awareness of women’s issues in our community.
  • Attendance at the national SWE conference for section officers, and attendance at the annual regional SWE conference for students who actively participate in section activities.
  • Career development workshops offered by employer/recruiters and the Career Center.
  • Leadership development opportunities through collegiate leadership coaching provided by the Chicago Regional Section of the Society of Women Engineers and by campus and business leaders.

In 2008, through the leadership of a recent undergraduate degree recipient who joined the College’s graduate program, our ND SWE section started separate programming for graduate students, to help address the retention of women in that program as well.  Those activities, run entirely by graduate student volunteers, mirror the undergraduate activities in type and scope, but are designed to bring the graduate women together for mutual support.

 

Educational Enhancement

WEP supports faculty proposals for research, as an element of the “broadening participation” requirement for funding through the National Science Foundation.  Through WEP, female undergraduate students at both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s can apply to work with professors performing cutting-edge research during the academic year and in the summers.  WEP also administers the Luce Fellowship program, which provides stipend money for female engineering students to pursue independent research under the guidance of faculty members.

 

Publications

Engineering Education

Pieronek, C., Meyers, K., Skiles, S., Kelly, S., McWilliams, L., Predicting Sophomore Retention, for publication and presentation at the 2010 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (Louisville, Kentucky, June 2010).

Pieronek, C., Advanced Placement Credit: A Double-Edged Sword, for publication and presentation at the 2007 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (Honolulu, Hawaii, June 2007).     

Pieronek, C., McWilliams, L., Silliman, S., Uhran, J., The Value of a Comprehensive, Integrated Assessment Program for Improving the First-Year Engineering Experience, for publication and presentation at the 2005 Frontiers in Education Conference (Indianapolis, Indiana, October 2005).

Pieronek, C., McWilliams, L., Silliman, S., Uhran, J., Gunty, M., Graf, C., Mosaic or Monolith: Using Demographics and Detailed Surveys to Understand the Many and Varied Dimensions of First-Year Female Engineering Students, for publication and presentation at the 2005 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (Portland, Oregon, June 2005) (finalist for best paper award, Women in Engineering Division).

Pieronek, C., McWilliams, L., Silliman, S., Uhran, J., Gunty, M., Graf, C., Beyond the Numbers: A Deeper Look into the Retention of Female Engineering Students, for publication and presentation at the 2005 Joint Conference of the National Association of Minority Engineering Program Administrators and Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network (Las Vegas, Nevada, April 2005).

Pieronek, C. and Pieronek, T., Attracting Women to Careers in Aerospace Using Lessons Learned in Higher Education, for publication and presentation at the AIAA Space 2004 Conference and Exhibit (San Diego, California, September 2004).

Pieronek, C., Uhran, J., McWilliams, L., Silliman, S., A Demographic Characterization of First-Year Engineering Students, for publication and presentation at the 2004 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (Salt Lake City, Utah, June 2004).

Pieronek, C., McWilliams, L., Silliman, S., Initial Observations on Student Retention and Course Satisfaction Based on First-Year Engineering Student Surveys and Interviews, for publication and presentation at the 2003 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (Nashville, Tennessee, June 25, 2003). 

 

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

Pieronek, Catherine F. "Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972." Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education. Ed. James A. Banks. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012. 2176-79. SAGE Reference Online. Web. 25 Jun. 2012.

Pieronek, C., The 2010 “Dear Colleague” Letter on Title IX Compliance for College Athletic Programs: Pointing the Way to Proportionality ... Again, 38 J.C. & U.L. 277 (2012).

Pieronek, C., Federal Title IX Reviews: What They Really Mean, for publication and presentation at the 2009 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (Austin, Texas, June 2009).

Pieronek, C., Last Word:  Not Just for Sports, Prism (Dec. 2007).

Pieronek, C., and Carl, M., “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” a chapter in Title IX at 35: Beyond the Headlines, published by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (2008).

Pieronek, C., Reasonable Expectations: Understanding the Limited Power of Title IX to Transform STEM Educational Programs, for publication and presentation at the 2006 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (Chicago, Illinois, June 2006).                                                                                            

Pieronek, C., An Analysis of the New Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Regarding Part Three of the Three-Part Test for Compliance with the Effective Accommodation Guidelines of Title IX, 32 J.C. & U.L. 105 (2005); included in The NACUA Handbook for Lawyers New to Higher Education (National Association of College and University Attorneys, 2007).

Pieronek, C., What Title IX Means to Engineering Education, white paper for the Society of Women Engineers Government Relations and Public Policy Committee (Feb. 2005).

Pieronek, C., Title IX and Gender Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education:  No Longer an Overlooked Application of the Law, 31 J.C. & U.L. 291 (2005). 

Pieronek, C., Title IX Beyond 30: A Review of Recent Developments, 30 J.C. & U.L. 75 (2003).

Pieronek, C., Title IX and 30 Years of Progress: Can the Gender-Equity Law Help to Make Engineering Education More Accessible to Women?, for publication and presentation at the 2003 National Conference of the Society of Women Engineers (Birmingham, Alabama, October 10, 2003).

Pieronek, C., Title IX from Athletics to Academics: How to Use the Law to Increase the Enrollment of Women in College Engineering Programs, for publication and presentation at the 2003 National Conference of the Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network (Chicago, Illinois, June 11, 2003).

Pieronek, C., Title IX and Intercollegiate Athletics: Myth vs. Reality, 27 J.C. & U.L. 447 (2000); included in The NACUA Handbook for Lawyers New to Higher Education (National Association of College and University Attorneys, 2003).

Note, Clash of Titans: College Football v. Title IX, 20 J.C. & U.L. 351 (1994); cited in Cohen v. Brown University, 879 F. Supp. 185 (1995).