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  • culmegan

GradSWE Professional Lunch Coordinator

The Illinois chapter of the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) is a robust community of graduate students in engineering and science with a mission to promote diversity in graduate education in engineering and science to enable innovative and creative solutions to the future technical challenges of society.

I served as the Lunch Coordinator for the 2020-2021 school year. In this role, I recruited speakers, planned meetings, and hosted talks. The topics covered personal and professional development, spanning from leadership, self management, and curating social media for academics, to healthy relationships, wellbeing, and financial negotiation. We also covered societal awareness topics like challenges to address climate change, cultural significance in personal identity, and incorporating arts in engineering.

I loved being a part of GradSWE during my first year in grad school. It was the first time I felt like I wanted to seek out a community of women in engineering, and I found a welcoming group that I could talk to about different experiences in grad school, learn about research outside of my own specialty, and connect with local outreach opportunities.

I was honored to be selected for the 2020-2021 committee. During my term of service, the school was under tight Covid restrictions, so all of our meetings were held virtually. This had some advantages, like easy accessibility, and some disadvantages, like the challenge of getting people to attend even though we could no longer provide free lunch to everyone. To overcome this, I decided to offer electronic gift card giveaways at each lunch. In this way, we were still able to offer food credits for some attendees, and motivate attendance.

I was proud to have an average of 15 attendees at all of my lunches. Although the average was a little lower than the previous year, it was a strong showing for virtual lunches, especially as "zoom burnout" set in. I was also proud that lunches were some of the best attended events hosted by GradSWE, and that many of the new grad students that attended the lunches applied for committee positions for the next year. I think this speaks to the idea that the lunches still fostered a sense of community and development despite the virtual format.

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