Engineered for support

November 14, 2012

Members of Alpha Omega Epsilon celebrate Founder's Day Members of Alpha Omega Epsilon celebrate Founder's Day

Megan Roemmele’s career path began on the back of a coloring book. Waiting in restaurants for her food to arrive, she’d flip the book over and beg her dad to teach her to multiply.

“Even when I was young, I was always interested in learning more math and science,” she said. “By my freshman year of high school, a weeklong engineering summer camp made up my mind that I would study engineering in college.”

Erika Wilson’s fascination with engineering started around the same time, after she attended a Women in Science and Engineering (W.I.S.E) program in Ann Arbor.

“I just fell in love with it and went back to the program every year,” she said, citing a love for seeing her designs come to life.

Wilson and Roemmele are two members of a small, but passionate, group of students on campus: the women of Alpha Omega Epsilon.

Alpha Omega Epsilon is a professional and social sorority for engineering and technical science students.  For members, it’s a support system of people who understand the complexities of being a woman in a male-dominated field.

“In a lot of my classes I am the only girl,” said Wilson, who plans to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. “It’s nice to have other girls to relate to because they are dealing with the same things. The upper-class girls are very helpful when you have questions in a class they have already taken.”

That’s the type of benefit Alpha Omega Epsilon adviser Jennifer Makas hopes members gain.

“Companionship and helping others, both mentoring each other and reaching out to younger students,” she said. “There are more women going into engineering, so there’s more camaraderie possible and networking after graduation.”

Makas—who, herself, is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering at UM-Dearborn—also points to resources available to all engineering students. Access to professors, peer-led instructional sessions, tutoring, academic advising and counseling services help ensure that engineering students don’t fall through the cracks.

But Wilson and Roemmele aren’t simply relying on the sorority and academic services to help meet their own needs; they’re using their connections to help advance the study of engineering among women. Members of Alpha Omega Epsilon volunteer with Girls’ Engineering Exploration, a program for inner-city 4th- and 5th-graders, and Engineering Experience, a high school competition at UM-Dearborn.

Both encourage girls to study math and science.

“I would tell girls to do their research and talk to other women who are engineers,” Wilson said. “Don’t be afraid to try something different from the norm.”

It’s a lesson both students are learning— a lesson that pays dividends now and into the future as they prepare for life in the engineering field.

“As an engineer, people seek you out for your ability to play, discover and solve puzzles,” Roemmele said, who already has completed an internship with the HVAC product development group at Visteon. “With math and science, the world is what you make it.”

Makas agreed, adding, “Whether your degree leads to designing a better mammogram machine, more accessible peddles in a vehicle, becoming a doctor dealing with prosthetics or a STEM teacher, you’ll be fulfilling the Engineer’s Creed: ‘to dedicate my professional knowledge to the advancement and betterment of human welfare.’”

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