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Katie Bradley: President of UConn’s Society of Women Engineers

Name: Katie Bradley

Hometown: Brookfield, CT

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Organization & Position: Society of Women Engineers, President

Graduation Year: 2018

Age: 20

Q: For anyone who doesn’t know about SWE, what is it exactly? How did you get involved?

KB: Okay, so, SWE is the Society of Women Engineers. It is an international organization that supports and promotes girls and women in engineering. Our UConn section’s main goal is to support and empower, in every way possible, all of the girls that attend the school of engineering here at UConn and also inspire young girls in our area and hopefully open them up to the world of engineering and STEM. I started off in the BRIDGE program and that’s basically how I learned about SWE. BRIDGE is a pre-engineering program, which is 5 weeks long during the summer before your freshman year. I knew the number of women in engineering were small, but I didn’t know they were that small. I thought, “I wanna change that, I wanna get involved.” The President at the time was so good and so involved, that I wanted to do what she did. And I wanted to create a network for girls to have a place to go, where there’s other girls. In most of my classes, I can count the amount of girls on one hand, and those classes have 120 kids in it. Things like that made me want to do SWE even more. SWE is just a support network for the girls in the School of Engineering, and I know it’s hard to find girls in your classes and get to know them. Studies show that you do better when you have a network supporting you, so you have to establish your network, find your people, and go from there.

Q: That sounds amazing! What do you think is the biggest event SWE does during the year?

KB: SWE’s biggest event is Multiply Your Options (MYO), a workshop day that hundreds of eighth grade girls from across Connecticut come to attend to learn about engineering, talk to girls here at UConn and also hear from professional engineers that have made it all the way. It’s so exciting to find a young girl who’s like, “Oh, I didn’t know that’s what engineering was, I didn’t know I could do that.” or, “I can be an astronaut?”, and I’m like, “Yeah you can be an astronaut, you can do what you wanna do!”  Teaching little girls about engineering and about doing what you want to do, and not being said no to just because you’re a girl or because you think you’re not smart enough. You can do whatever you put your mind to. This is definitely our biggest event. We really want to connect the girls with successful women engineers so they can see that if these women did it, that they can too. Showing them the starting point, which is them, the middle point which is us, the college students, and the end point, which is the professionals, is really important. MYO’s goal is for the professional and collegiate girls to connect with the eighth graders and talk to them about how they first got interested, if there was a meaningful role model in their life that helped them, and talk to them about what it was like in STEM classes in high school as a girl and beyond.

Q: What is the most challenging part about your job? And the most rewarding?

KB: The most challenging part about leading a group this large, which at times has about 50-60 active members, is getting to know everyone you can obviously, and juggling all of our projects and involvement. As president, or any E-board position, you kind of have to be ‘ON’ all the time and make sure that everything’s taken care of. Because if something or someone is left out, then it falls on the leadership. And sometimes it’s hard to translate your passion to other people, you have to find different ways to do that. On the back end of that, the most rewarding part of SWE is seeing all of your hard work pay off. So that could be a social event running really well with high attendance, talking to the girls that came to MYO and hearing how much fun they had, having people reach out to you saying thank you, and honestly when girls at UConn want to get more involved in SWE feels really good. Because then you know that they care about SWE as much as you do which is what the E-board wants!

Q: What do you think are the most important qualities of a leader?

KB: I think the most important quality for a leader is passion. It’s not very hard to lead people in general, but I find that the best leaders and the ones that make the biggest difference are the ones that are the most passionate about the cause that they are leading. I know that leaders that I look up to, they really care about what they do, they care about who and what they’re leading. I think as a leader you also have to be considerate because sometimes you can get so caught up in what you’re doing, and you don’t want anybody to feel left out. You have to be compassionate and considerate to how the things that you’re doing will affect the people around you. Obviously, being approachable is important. You don’t want anyone to think that just because you’re a leader, that they can’t talk to you. I want everyone to talk to me! And I want to talk to everyone. So being approachable and kind-hearted and doing everything with integrity is really important too. 

Q: As a second semester junior, if you could give advice to your freshman self, what would it be?

KB: It’s okay to not meet your own, or other people’s expectations, and your grades don’t define how smart you are. You might be brilliant, but maybe you’re just not brilliant at Chemistry. And that’s okay, find the things you’re good at and hold onto those. It’s okay to struggle and get a C in a class! Just move forward and motivate yourself to do better next time. The last thing I want girls in engineering to think is that they can’t be an engineer just because they failed chemistry. That’s not true at all. You need to fail in order to be successful. No successful person has never not failed. It’s all about how much you care and making sure what you’re doing is worth it. Don’t knock yourself down. School and other people and so many other things are going to try and knock you down and challenge you but you have to be your own advocate. Always remember that you can come back from failure, you can come back from not meeting your expectations, but you always are going to need to help yourself do it. Be your own best friend and motivator. And also make sure to surround yourself with positive people. I got caught up with people that weren’t motivating me and people that didn’t hold the same values as me and I got lost a little bit in my own values and expectations for friends should act and support you. So find the right people, and this absolutely doesn’t happen right away, but meeting as many people as you can is a great start. Last thing, having bad experiences are just as helpful as having good ones because you can learn from both, if not more from the bad ones. 

Q: Do you have any other interests outside of SWE?

KB: I love sports. I try to stay as athletic and as in shape as I can, but sometimes the whole in shape thing comes in spurts, haha. I played three sports in high school and I definitely took for granted what being a part of a team meant in my life. I think that might be what drove me to be a part of an organization like SWE, because we are a team too. I like doing things outside like hiking and skiing/snowboarding and going for walks and runs outside. I LOVE dogs. I miss my dog every day and every time I see a dog on campus I know that I have to go and say hi. I love food and traveling because who doesn’t? And I like really enjoy TV. I don’t know what it is but I just love wasting time getting wrapped up in other people’s stories and lives, fictional or otherwise. Other than that I’m pretty open to trying anything new so if anyone has any suggestions for things I should try, hmu!

If you’d like to learn more about the Society of Women Engineers at UConn, visit http://swe.rso.uconn.edu/ or come to their first meeting of the semester on Wednesday, January 25th at 7 PM in Oak Hall.

All images provided by Katie Bradley

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