The 15 dedicated women in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering know how to get things done.
Earlier this summer, they won the national SWE FY19 Wow! Innovation Challenge for developing a program to retain volunteers by fostering an exciting, inclusive, and transparent environment where volunteers feel supported and respected.
Those volunteers are needed for their cornerstone event, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which brings middle school students from across the state to CSU for a glimpse into the world of engineering. This event hosts 100 girls, and requires the support of about 150 volunteers, making it SWE’s largest scale event each year. The next Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at CSU will be March 28, 2020.
The innovative volunteer retention program is multi-layered and truly puts the volunteer first.
“It’s difficult for members of any student organization to balance classes, studying, extracurriculars, and a social life,” said SWE outreach coordinator, Theresa Centola. “Offering a detailed description of tasks and time requirement of each volunteering activity is crucial in allowing members to make an informed decision to fit their schedules.”
In addition to the transparent nature of the program, it was important that each volunteer was assigned one point of contact throughout their volunteer experience to maintain consistency and maximize communication efforts. The committee also implemented check-in surveys to gauge volunteer workloads, stress levels, and to ensure work was being distributed evenly.
Bonding exercises like guided meditation and stretching were implemented to alleviate stress and promote healthy habits. Incentives were also used to keep volunteers engaged.
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day satisfied a service requirement for some classes, and a point system was created to award scholarships to two volunteers.
“Being involved in IAGE increased my chances of being the freshman selected to attend SWE Nationals, as well as get me participation points through our SWE section to be eligible for an involvement scholarship,” said Centola. “Additionally, I feel my involvement in SWE helped me to be elected as a section officer.”
Since 2017, the program has played a crucial role in executing Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, Centola said.. “The best part of IAGE’s volunteer program is the diversity brought to the event. Volunteers range from collegiate to professional, each bringing their unique passions about engineering and outreach to the event, giving the girls who attend an inclusive representation of what engineering can look like for them.”