We spoke with Olabisi Bello, President of the Howard University SWE Section, to learn more about the SWE community on campus.
What motivated you to become involved with SWE at your school?
Honestly, at first I only joined the organization because I was looking for more organizations to put on my resume, but I stayed and became more involved because the inspiring mission of SWE truly resonated with me. I wanted to not only become a part of something that was much bigger than me, but also something that I could actively contribute to from my little corner of the world.
How does your school benefit from having a SWE Section?
There’s nothing like being part of an organization that makes you feel like, or actually reminds you, that you do in fact belong. We all know that the data is stacked against Women of Color in Engineering, but for the students at Howard who are members of SWE, this is a section where you can look to your left, look to your right, and meet amazing women who look just like you and who, through the power of network, motivate you to do amazing things as well.
Can you describe one of your group’s typical meetings or events?
Most of our meetings and events are not typical because we try to engage our members with a wide variety of events. For example, last semester, we had a movie night, a game night, a murder mystery party, a HBCU HERside chat, and so on. I would say that our most standard meetings are our general body meetings wherein we share updates about the organization and then incorporate a fun activity at the end like a pictionary game to help everyone bond and connect better.
How has your group honored Black History Month this year or in past years?
In past years, we have highlighted the contributions of Black women engineers to our members and the general community, and that is something that we will continue to do. This year, coincidentally, we are kicking off our SWEet Circles initiative which are small groups of SWE members that meet twice a month to work on advancing their professional and personal goals.
What advice can you offer to young women or non-binary students who are considering a STEM major?
Honestly, you might not really know your passion until you try, and that’s the beautiful thing about STEM – there are just so many fields to try. If you’re worried about gender bias and/or discrimination, become a part of organizations like SWE or SWENext, and if there isn’t one at your college, you can start a section and create that safe space for everyone else.
Is there anything else about your group you would like to share with the SWE community?
We won a WE Local Membership Growth award last year! It was truly an honor, and we plan to attend the WE Local conference this year for the first time in a long time. We are also so excited to restart a hybrid version of our Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day in March after 2 years, so be sure to follow our social media @hu_swe to keep up with our org’s updates!
For more photos of HU-SWE events, take a look at their fall semester scrapbook here!