by Jillian Atelsek
Stamp Student Union was buzzing with activity and anticipation Saturday as hundreds of high school students from around the state gathered to participate in the WIE DREAM Conference.
WIE DREAM stands for Women in Engineering Developing Revolutionary Engineers and Mentors. Organizer Rebecca Kenemuth said the conference is an all-day event focused on showcasing engineering principles, ideas and careers to high school students, specifically girls.
Kenemuth recently signed on as the assistant director of outreach and recruitment for the Clark School of Engineering. She said that organizing the WIE DREAM Conference falls under her new list of responsibilities.
“It’s a humongous task,” Kenemuth said. “But I’m happy to be doing it.”
The conference attracted approximately 500 students, and an estimated 200 parents, educators and volunteers, Kenemuth said.
The young women who attended were all interested in pursuing careers in STEM, even though most were sophomores and juniors who were still undecided on the specifics of their career goals.
“I’m trying to expose myself to different things to find out what I’m interested in,” sophomore high school student Corin Scheig said. She added that she came to the conference with the hopes of “finding out more about what I’m passionate about.”
Other students, however, such as high school sophomore Chelsea Mikal, have already formulated specific plans for their studies and careers.
“I actually have an internship [lined up] over the summer for a chemical engineering program,” Mikal said.
She intends to pursue a career in chemical engineering with a focus on environmental development.
“I’ve taken environmental science this year, and I want to be part of that movement that tries to save the planet through chemical engineering,” Mikal said.
Darryll Pines, dean of the engineering school, addressed the enormous gender gap that currently exists in all STEM fields, especially engineering, in his opening speech.
“Because of our commitment over the last several decades to your success as students of our college, we have seen a reversal in this trend,” he said.
“We jumped from a class that was 16.5 percent women in 2005, that is now 26 percent,” Pines said.
According to Kenemuth, conferences such as WIE DREAM are just “a piece of the puzzle.”
“It takes a village,” she said of the effort to attract more young women to engineering careers. “We can’t only rely on underfunded, under researched public schools. We all have to be partners.”
“If we light this spark in girls early on, [hopefully] they will stick with STEM.”