BuckISE on the Move
The leadership of Ohio State chapters of professional engineering organizations had to resort to creativity and innovation to provide opportunities for their members amidst the backdrop of the global pandemic. Fortunately, those are assets these students have in abundance.
Ohio State ISE students participate in a variety of student chapters of professional organizations that add to their education and help prepare them for the workforce. Here’s a roundup of some of the activities sponsored by Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) and Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
The COVID-19 pandemic required IISE leaders to get creative with their events. IISE President Lucy Sheppard says all events were conducted online via Zoom during the Spring 2021 semester.
“This allowed us to have speakers from all over the country and for our members to be flexible as well,” she says. “When it was possible, we did supply pick-up for a painting event. Since we normally have pizza at each meeting, we did a raffle every week and delivered a pizza to the winners during the subsequent meeting. This both encouraged attendance and our tradition of pizza at general body meetings.”
The consulting team and cohort groups continued to meet via Zoom or in groups of less than 10. Sheppard says IISE hopes to return to in-person meetings this fall.
“We will still offer virtual options occasionally for those who are not comfortable or not able to attend in person,” she says. “We have also found that Zoom may be a helpful avenue when sourcing alum or company speakers who may not be local to Columbus.”
NSBE’s mission is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.
Vice President Lexi Wallace says the group is in the midst of planning its 2021-22 annual events, which will include a diversity company social, etiquette dinner, Walk for Education event, STEM challenge and study tables.
The organization celebrated NSBE Week Aug. 30-Sept. 3 with a host of activities, including Art and Chill, an E-council meeting, ice cream social, general body meeting, Mentor/Mentee pairings event and a scavenger hunt.
A calendar of this year’s events may be found here.
SHPE President Alfonso Tinoco Lopez says the organization has tried to maintain its regular roster of activities throughout the pandemic on a virtual basis. These include bi-weekly general body meetings, chapter and professional development opportunities, outreach, academic initiatives and conferences.
“For the most part, we are planning on keeping most of these events for the ‘21-22 academic year,” he says. “We are thinking of going back to in-person events. This includes having more outdoor socials like Topgolf outings.”
He said SHPE has announced that they intend to hold this year’s national convention in person.
Lopez says members should expect chapter activities to include weekly socials, a networking brunch, etiquette dinner, mentorship program and study tables.
SHPE also plans to continue its outreach efforts. In the 2020-21 academic year, these included celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with 75 Columbus first graders to share information about engineering, and the Region 6 Virtual Noche de Ciencias where 272 third- through 12th-graders heard the presentation, “It’s Not Magic, It’s Science” and participated in panel group sessions as well as hands-on activities.
The Ohio State chapter of SWE aims to stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving quality of life and demonstrate the value of diversity. “Through numerous events and initiatives throughout the year, we strive to provide professional, personal and social growth for our members,” says President Kavya Narayanan. “Our hope is that members find a home within OSU SWE and they are able to receive the resources they need to succeed in their collegiate career.”
She says the past year presented new challenges in the way SWE had to conduct business. “With strict limitations on in-person gatherings, and with an organization of nearly 200 active members, we made the executive decision to have all events take place virtually,” she says. “Our officers rose to the occasion to brainstorm and create innovative and engaging events that helped our members connect. A year later, we can say that OSU SWE has only gotten stronger since the start of the pandemic. Over the course of the 2020-2021 school year, OSU SWE hosted close to 115 events, which is comparable to the number of events held previously, which ranges from 100-120 events per year. The virtual environment allowed for increased accessibility of events, especially for our regional and Columbus State Community College students, who otherwise find trouble in being able to commute and attend our in-person events. This year, we had about 16 regional or Columbus State students attend at least two SWE events – a huge increase from previous years. We hope to continue to provide virtual options for events in the future, so as to not lose these valuable members.”
Narayanan says one of SWE’s most popular initiatives is its Big-Little mentorship program, in which one upper-class member is paired with a few underclass members to help guide them throughout the academic year. “This year more than any other, younger members were seeking new connections and guidance in the virtual environment,” she says. “We had around 170 members participate in our Big-Little program, in which Bigs and Littles got creative in how they could connect and support each other through Zoom.”
SWE also teamed with the Ohio State Association of Computing Machinery Women’s Chapter to host six virtual CoolTechGirls Techno Fashion Challenge workshops to teach girls about Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We also offered virtual engineering workshops with the Girl Scouts, created YouTube outreach videos, and became pen pals with a school in Indianapolis,” Narayanan says. “SWE also aimed to provide mental wellness support through our Wellness Program. Each month, there were different challenges associated with that month’s theme, some of which included: self-confidence, self-care and move your body. Members were encouraged to work out and share healthy habits with each other, which created an outlet and sense of support for everyone.”
“Regardless of the challenges associated with the pandemic,” Narayanan says, “OSU SWE beat the odds and received 26 awards for our events and outstanding members. These awards were recognized from Societal SWE, OSU Student Leadership and E-Council. The pandemic has allowed our organization to think creatively and produce new events that we probably would not have considered in a normal world. And a year later, we have seen that our organization has succeeded in being able to put on engaging events to recruit and retain our members – all in a virtual environment.”
Story by Nancy RIchison