If it was a performance, it would be described as “sold out,” for there was not a single open seat at the Women in Engineering Open House held in the Granoff Music Center. The highly popular admissions event is open to young women interested in pursuing a degree at Tufts University School of Engineering. The staff from Tufts Admissions’ engineering open houses welcomes parents as well—usually they dominate question and answer sessions as their progeny hide in their seats. But this wasn’t the case on Friday, October 18th, showing that these prospective engineering students—who happen to be women—are eager to take their education into their own hands. The event attracted participants from near and far, with the most participants coming from the town of Hingham, Mass., and one student that traveled all the way from Wuhan, China.
School of Engineering Dean Linda Abriola provided welcoming remarks and shared her personal journey to becoming an engineer. As an undergraduate, she pursued the violin and considered pursuing an engineering degree as her back-up plan. Eventually, she devoted herself to engineering and was the only woman in a class of 60. As a dean, she came to Tufts because she said she saw it as the kind of place she would’ve like to gone to school. Students at Tufts have the flexibility to pursue a respected engineering degree program and still have time to take additional humanities courses or participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, not to mention that 32% of our engineering graduates are women compared to the national average of 18.9%, said Abriola.
The student and alumnae panel following Dean Abriola confirmed that women engineers at Tufts seldom take notice of the gender gap because they rarely feel outnumbered by the opposite sex. The panel included a young alumna working in cyber security at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, a Ph.D. student at MIT, and another working for a non-profit that focuses on energy efficiency in New England. Current students from the Departments of Civil and Environmental and Mechanical Engineering
There was one common theme from the panel: the faculty and staff at Tufts sincerely care about students—some will learn your name even if you haven’t had a course with them. The alumnae emphasized the value of forming good relationships with faculty because they are a great resource for research and internship connections. Panelists also shared their interests outside of engineering—ballroom dance, a capella groups—assuring prospective students that it’s possible to balance engineering studies with other passions.
Before lunch, participants were led on facility tours through Anderson and Halligan Halls as well as the Science and Technology Center. On the Anderson Hall tour, Associate Professor Laurie Baise promoted the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with the help of Polly Murray, E14, president of the ASCE chapter at Tufts. Murray shared her passion for bridges with prospective students: photos of her favorite bridges in Boston, stories from course field trips to construction sites, and her favorite event of the year: the annual bridge-building competition.
Participants ate lunch at Dewick-MacPhie Dining Hall, and had more questions answered in an afternoon session on academics and the admission process. The last event, Engineering Outside the Classroom, showcased some of the engineering student groups on campus, including Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), which oversees programs such as the Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program (STOMP) that provides Tufts students with opportunities to interact with K-12 students.
This year, the admissions team introduced the Twitter hashtag #TuftsWIE and encouraged attendees to tweet about their experiences throughout the day. Prospective students shared photos of new friends they made over the course of the day, praised the dining hall’s peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich option, and boldly declared, “I want to be a Woman Engineering Superhero!”