We spoke with President Raelyn Henderson and Treasurer Victoria Rencher, along with members Dailynn Thomas and Spencer Williams, to learn more about the SWE community on the Baton Rouge, LA campus.
What motivated you to become involved with SWE at your school?
Raelyn: SWE is a safe space for female STEM majors to feel welcome and accepted. It feels like home.
Victoria: I wanted to be a part of an organization within my major and to gain exposure due to lack of opportunities because of COVID-19.
Dailynn: My passion for STEM & camaraderie for my classmates here at my institution.
Spencer: I loved the idea of joining a club with women in a male dominated field.
How does your school benefit from having a SWE Section?
Raelyn: Southern University benefits extremely by having a SWE section. We host resume review sessions, interview prep, and we also distribute scholarship and internship resources. Industry partners often come to our sessions and give our students advice and/or tips to excel.
Victoria: Our school benefits by allowing women and men to get internships, community service, and professional opportunities that will allow them to succeed upon graduation.
Dailynn: It allows for us women in STEM to come together and have a safe space to talk about our different struggles and successes in STEM!
Spencer: It helps young girls, especially freshman, to really reach out and connect with their fellow peer engineers. SWE is open to everyone and makes one feel seen and heard and welcome. This is definitely needed, as there are many women entering the STEM field and may feel overlooked.
Can you describe one of your group’s typical meetings or events?
Raelyn: A typical general body meeting often involves a word from a corporate sponsor, followed by section business, then a STEM challenge. We have one social event per month and that typically invites everyone to show their personality. It’s always filled with fun and laughter!
Victoria: Our meetings typically happen in our institution’s engineering building as we discuss upcoming events and tasks, along with interacting in fun activities.
Dailynn: Normally there’s some sort of fun challenge at the beginning, led by announcements, and then there’s congregation at the end amongst our peers.
Spencer: Informing, engaging, and fun. We sometimes get visits from recruiters to help us with anything involving future jobs. The board engages with the members.
How has your group honored Black History Month this year or in past years?
Raelyn: For us, every month is Black History Month but this month specifically, we are working under the leadership of our city on campus beautification projects at predominately minority high schools.
Spencer: One year the group recognized the black female STEM teachers at SU.
What advice can you offer to young women or non-binary students who are considering a STEM major?
Raelyn: Many times, you may feel like you don’t fit in but you have to ask yourself: Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Stand out in STEM and do not be paralyzed by fear! There are limitless possibilities for your taking.
Victoria: One piece of advice I can offer is don’t be afraid to do something different in terms of STEM. It may seem like it is not for you because it is male-dominated, but you won’t know until you try.
Dailynn: Do it for yourself, not for your family. Let it align with your purpose.
Spencer: Go for it and when you get there, keep going. It’s going to be very challenging and you’ll want to change your major or give up many times. However, joining groups like SWE will help you connect with peers in your classes or upperclassmen who are going through the struggle or have gone through the struggle. Knowing there’s someone with you or someone who’s been there makes you feel like “If they can do it, I can do it too,” and get the motivation you need to continue with your STEM major.
Is there anything else about your group you would like to share with the SWE community?
Raelyn: Not only does our school benefit from what we do, but our community does as well. Last semester, we hosted a Toy Drive for kids ages 3 months to 12 years old. We were able to donate 4 boxes of toys to the Greater Baton Rouge Area for Christmas. Additionally, we were fortunate enough to be able to work with a local elementary school on a school wide STEM Day. They allowed us to pull out all of their female students and ignite their passion for STEM! Students built structures, made lava lamps, circuit wands, and so much more!
Victoria: We have just started our organization back, so we are looking forward to continuing strong in all endeavors!
Spencer: The board is very active and engaging this year. I’d personally like to shout out President Raelyn Henderson for reviving SWE and making me and so many others feel welcome and helping us get the same opportunities like our counterparts.
Keep up with the Southern University SWE Section by following them on Instagram!