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Empowering Women in STEM: Leah Courtney’s Journey with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

Empowering Women in STEM: Leah Courtney’s Journey with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

Leah Courtney, a senior in Engineering, has been actively involved with the University’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter since her freshman year, currently serving as its president. SWE is a recognized student organization (RSO) that aims to promote women and gender minorities in STEM fields and create a supportive community on campus. Courtney has held various leadership positions within SWE, starting as a chair in her freshman year and eventually becoming co-director of the Outreach Committee in her junior year.

As an advocate for inclusivity and confidence-building, Courtney believes that RSOs like SWE provide a supportive community that may not always be found in the classroom, making the engineering field less intimidating for women. SWE also places a strong emphasis on working with local students, ranging from elementary to high school, to inspire them to explore STEM careers and challenge traditional gender and racial stereotypes.

In addition to her involvement with SWE, Courtney is also an Engineering Learning Assistant (ELA) for ENG 100: Grainger Engineering Orientation Seminar, where she serves as a peer mentor to freshmen in Engineering during their first semester of college. Recently, Courtney was honored with the Knight of St. Patrick Award by the College of Engineering for her leadership, character, and exceptional contributions to the college and its students.

SWE and other women in engineering RSOs … provide women the community that they might not find in the classroom, and then it makes the classroom less intimidating.” – Leah Courtney

After graduation, Courtney plans to travel to Europe before starting her career as a civil engineer in Chicago with Burns & McDonnell, where she hopes to continue her involvement with SWE by joining the local section. She encourages younger students to seek community and prioritize relationships with like-minded individuals who inspire and support them in pursuing their goals.