Last spring, five undergraduate women in engineering at the University realized that their female peers were dropping out of the engineering departments at much higher rates than their male peers. Last summer, Suren Jamiyanaa ’19 decided to change that. Jamiyanaa came up with the idea for ReModel – a new student organization that launched yesterday – designed to encourage female engineers to pursue their own hands-on projects and see more engineering role models.
Founder and president Jamiyanaa and co-president Victoria Davidjohn ’19 both participated in the Freshman Scholars Institute (FSI) before matriculating. There, they took an engineering class and noticed the same trend in their female peers. Jamiyanaa said that about 60 percent of the females in her class dropped out of engineering in the first semester of freshmen year.
Madeleine Cheyette ’19 serves as co-president, and Ifeyinwa Ikpeazu ’18 is the business manager.
Jamiyanaa said she began thinking about the issue at the end of freshman year. She and Davidjohn spent last summer meeting with and developing connections with companies like Microsoft and Google in New York.
“I grabbed Victoria and was like ‘Yo, we need to do something about this,’ because it was challenging for us and we were able to take a challenging situation and identify a gap and take personal accountability to solve it,” Jamiyanaa said. She added that the meetings with Microsoft and Google were centered around how the companies themselves approached this problem in recruiting and the workplace.
“The relationships with Google and Microsoft will provide us with project mentors and they will provide direct guidance on the projects,” Jamiyanaa said. She added that professors from the entrepreneurship department at the University will also help to facilitate projects.
Jamiyanaa said that ReModel plans to complete one to two projects by the end of the semester. The projects will be led by groups of three to five women per project, according to ReModel vice president Emily Abdo ’19.
Jamiyanaa added that she wants ReModel to be able to build confidence for women in engineering and offer more opportunities for young women in engineers to see more role models.
Abdo agreed. “There’s a lack of visibility of engineering role models. If you look up engineers, you’ll see someone like Mark Zuckerberg,” she said. “It’ll always be a guy.”
Because the group has only just launched, they have not decided if they will require an application for the projects that ReModel will focus on each semester. The group plans to meet twice a week, according to Jamiyanaa . After the organization’s launch on social media Monday, Jamiyanaa said there was a strong positive response with text messages and social media comments and responses.
Abdo said that when Jamiyanaa reached out to her last summer, she was excited to collaborate on this project. Abdo said that although she knew the rates of engineering drop out were higher for women than for men, she did not realize it was as large of an issue at the University as it is nationally.
Abdo finds the hands-on aspect of ReModel particularly compelling. She said she plans to focus a lot of her energy into the organization. She said that another aspect of ReModel that drew her was that she had always wanted to pursue engineering since her father and brother were both engineers but because of the lack of female role models, she did not know exactly what the role entailed.
“Going forward, I’m just really excited,” Abdo said. “I think one of the biggest things I want to see is the project to be really diverse, but that’s contingent on the group of women.”
Abdo said she wants to see all facets of engineering represented, such as computer science and electrical engineering.
“We want to also make sure we’re not just software heavy [and] build more on hardware so there will be more partnerships with the University School of Engineering,” Jamiyanaa said.
“I think keeping the hands-on project is the most important,” Abdo said. “As we get more established, I’d love to bring in more professionals from industry to do panels or lectures.”
Abdo emphasized that all of the officers involved in the launching of ReModel are passionate about their work.
“When we talked earlier in the year with starting ReModel, we were all pretty up front that this is something we’re really passionate about,” she said. “I definitely want to put lots of time into this.”
ReModel will be recruiting new members to begin projects this semester in Frist Campus Center this week.
ReModel will hold its first informational meeting this Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Innovation Space. They will also be hosting their first event this Monday at 6 p.m., entitled Google #WomenInTech Presentation and Discussion. The event will be co-hosted by Princeton Women in Computer Science.