February 22, 2001

A Day in The life of A Woman Engineer

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Regina Clewlow ’01 wants you to appreciate engineers.

“Engineering is really united as a college because we are all engineers. We are all getting an engineering degree,” Clewlow said.

Clewlow is the president of the Engineering Student Leadership Council (ESLC), a member of the the Engineering Ambassadors (EA) and, of course, a dedicated engineering student.

“I think [engineering] is definitely challenging and more difficult than other majors. I lived in Risley [Residential College] for two years and I’d know that I was sometimes working more than them. Of course, whenever a paper rolled around for them they’d do their all nighters,” she said.

Walking through the snowy covered pathways behind Upson Hall, Clewlow heads for her first class at10 a.m., having already worked on a problem set on an empty stomach.

“Some semesters I vow to eat breakfast and it doesn’t happen,” she noted.

She will be busy with engineering-related activities the remainder of the day.

For Clewlow and the organizations she belongs to, this is the most hectic week of the year. From Feb. 18 to Feb.24, colleges and corporations across the country celebrate National Engineers Week, an effort to bring engineers and their craft some public attention.

“There are colleges all across the country that are doing outreach events specifically for this event,” Clewlow said.

Members of the College of Engineering and Clewlow stress that the purpose of the week is actually much greater at Cornell .

“Engineering Week, in a sense, is a good opportunity for the students to talk about their chosen profession because a lot of people have these vague views of what enginnering is,” said Michael S. Isaacson, associate dean for research, graduate studies and professional education.

Clewlow’s co-chair for National Engineers Week and fellow ESLC member, Arianne Baker ’01, agreed with the need to end certain engineering myths.

“Society tends to stereotype engineers as pocket-protector carrying geeks, and as a profession for only males. I know many people who think engineers are the equivalent of construction workers. National Engineering Week gives us a chance to try to dispel these stereotypes,” Baker noted.

Now, Clewlow’s focus is simply to spread the word about National Engineers Week so students can determine for themselves the veracity of these myths.

Spreading the word includes carrying tickets to sell for the ESLC’s third annual Diversity Dinner and publicizing the week’s events to engineering students during EA meetings.

She has had two classes between these meetings.

“I try to do [school work] between classes but that doesn’t always work out, so usually I end up doing my work after 6 or 7 p.m., until whenever I finish,” Clewlow admitted.

Lately, Clewlow has been involved in smoothing out the events for Engineering Week. These include an Ice Cream Social at Upson Lounge today, and an event of which she is particularly proud, called “Who Wants to Be An Engineer?” at Olin Hall on Friday. The latter event features students answering questions for various prizes in the style of the popular game show, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”

Yesterday, during the Week’s well-attended Lego Design Competition, engineering students dined on pizza as they built their rendition of a futuristic transport vehicle. The “Nerds on Steroids” won the competition with what the team described as their “Volkswagen Bug Transport Vehicle.”

Meanwhile Clewlow posted fliers, sold Diversity Dinner tickets, and took pictures for the ESLC: she spread the word.

She has another class after 7 p.m.

Those who know Clewlow say that while she works extremely hard for the different engineering organizations now, her payoff will come later.

“It enriches her [Clewlow’s] whole development to be a leader in her career plan as an engineer. I don’t think it takes anything away, it adds to her experience,” said Krishna Athreya, the College of Engineering’s director of women’s programs.

“Being a practicing engineer is more than the technical side. There is a lot of leadership and communication, and creativity,” Athreya continued.

This is exactly how Clewlow feels about her own engineering education.

She wants those outside the College to understand the “analytical” way of thinking that she finds engineering instills.

“When a person graduates from Cornell engineering it’s not so much the actual discipline that’s important. It’s the way of thinking that employers are looking for,” she said.

Also, she wishes people understood why engineering needs a week to celebrate itself. The National Society of Professional Engineers has its own purpose statement for their fifty-year-old celebration; Clewlow has another.

“It’s a profession that basically drives the way we live. It effects everybody’s life regardless of whether or not they want to admit it or realize it, engineering is everywhere. The light in your house, your food, your medicine, it’s just everywhere and so since engineers have such an impact on the world and society, that’s why there’s such appreciation for engineers.”

Clewlow wants you to participate during National Engineers Week. She will not have breakfast tomorrow.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins