Women in Engineering Program
About Notre Dame’s WIE
Notre Dame initiated the Women in Engineering program (WIE) 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. WIE 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 WIE delivers programming is through Notre Dame’s collegiate section of the Society of Women Engineers, whose events are open to all.
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.
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.
WIE supports faculty proposals for research, as an element of the “broadening participation” requirement for funding through the National Science Foundation. Through WIE, 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. WIE also administers the Luce Fellowship program, which provides money for scholarships, fellowships, and research for female engineering students.