The Cal State Fullerton College of Engineering and Computer Science received a $20,000 sponsorship from engineering company Raytheon to fund the Women in Engineering program for the 2013-2014 school year.
Raytheon allocated $20,000 of their annual contributions to the college for the program which began in fall 2012 with $12,500 grant from the Engineering Information Foundation.
The program focuses on the success of female freshmen engineering and computer science majors, according to Hart Roussel, director of development for Engineering and Computer Sciences.
“The Women in Engineering program is a retention program structured as a learning community,” Roussel said. “The idea is to take a particular cohort usually with some kind of an affinity, and you provide a series of integrated services with the intention of supporting retention and improving outcomes.”
According to Roussell, the female students of the program participate in a special session of the University 100 course during their first semester at CSUF which allows them to connect with other freshmen female engineering majors.
“We identify preferably a female instructor who coordinates the course specifically for this cohort,” Roussel added. “We also identify upperclassmen females in engineering who work as mentors and tutors as part of this program. We really try to make a connection between the Society of Women Engineers and this cohort.”
Lexi Schaffer, 21, a mechanical engineering major and SWE club president, was one of the mentors for the program in fall 2012. As a female engineer herself, Schaffer said she recognizes the importance of having a support system for these female students who may feel overwhelmed by the large number of males in their classes.
“When you first go into engineering, you don’t really realize that there aren’t that many girls in engineering,” Schaffer said. “It was really good that they (the female students) could build bonds as freshmen that way you could have those friends later on.”
Susamma Barua, Ph.D., an associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, said it is important to have a support program like Women in Engineering for female engineers and computer scientists.
“We do not want the female students to feel isolated,” Barua said. When there is a support system that they know they can rely on, their confidence level goes up. The support system allows the cohort group to be together in at least one of their classes.”
Schaffer said it is important for young female engineers to have other working female engineers as role models.
Since the fields of engineering and computer science are still mostly male-dominated, it is imperative that female students feel support from their college so that they feel encouraged to pursue their careers, Barua said.
Support from Laurie Haack, a CSUF alumni and manager for Fullerton’s Raytheon, was instrumental in the company’s sponsorship for the program.
Haack is an active volunteer for the Women in Engineering program, pre-college Engineering Innovation summer program and a member of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Leadership Council.
In order to increase engineers and computer scientists who are female, engineering companies such as Raytheon need to start from the university, Barua said.
According to Barua, Raytheon recognizes the importance of promoting female engineers and shows this by their willingness to contribute to the program.
“They understand the importance of increasing the enrollment of female students in engineering and computer science because they know that it is difficult for them to get female engineers or female computer scientists as part of their workforce,” Barua said.