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Seminar builds community for women engineers

When the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference came to San Diego this October, associate dean Jeanne Ferrante saw it as the perfect opportunity to give a boost to female engineering students at the Jacobs School. The annual conference is considered the world's largest gathering of women in IT.

"It is a transforming experience," says Ferrante. So this fall, she organized a women in computing seminar to encourage students to attend Grace Hopper, and to build community on campus. "Many students face similar issues—negative expectations, self doubt—they wonder, for example, whether they are cut out for the field when they don't want to play computer games 24/7 like many guys. They find they are not alone," says Ferrante.

Weekly seminar meetings focus on assigned readings and frank discussions about overcoming stereotypes, negotiating, and mentoring. A TWiki keeps the conversation going outside of class.

"The sense of community has been really refreshing," says seminar participant Simone McCloskey. "It's a singularly alienating experience to walk into a classroom with many times more men than women. Most women of my generation outside engineering will never know what that's like, so connecting with others for whom this is an everyday experience is indescribable."

Ferrante hopes that the class project, a website filled with articles, events and discussion, will build networking and attract and retain students. In addition to active student organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers and Women in Computing, UCSD recently joined MentorNet, which matches students with engineers in industry and academia to provide one-on-one, email-based mentoring.

For more information, contact Jeanne Ferrante atjferrante@ucsd.edu or (858) 822-0232.

WOMEN IN ENGINEERING SEMINAR. Jeanne Ferrante (far left) leads women in engineering seminar. The percentage of women enrolled at the Jacobs School continues to hover at 19% for graduates and 22% for undergraduates, similar to the national average of 22% and 17.5% respectively.
WOMEN IN ENGINEERING SEMINAR. Jeanne Ferrante (far left) leads women in engineering seminar. The percentage of women enrolled at the Jacobs School continues to hover at 19% for graduates and 22% for undergraduates, similar to the national average of 22% and 17.5% respectively.