The third annual Conference on Diversity in Engineering was hosted by McMaster University from November 10-12 in Hamilton, Ontario. The University of Waterloo delegation wrote about their experience on the weekend and is reproduced below.
Our Responsibility as Future Engineers and Leaders
My name is Andrew Dawson, and I’m a mechanical engineering student currently going into 3A. I was chosen to be the head delegate for the Waterloo Engineering ‘A’ Society at the CFES Conference on Diversity in Engineering at McMaster University. This experience was unlike any other that I’ve been able to attend in the way of building leadership skills. I’d like to share with you some of the ideas and revelations I’ve had with regards to us (engineering students and future industry/academic leaders) and our role in the professional setting.Conferences in general are a great way for students to learn about skills and opportunities through the shared experiences and presentations of other students or active professionals. CDE was a little bit different however, in that the context was as you would imagine, very much more personal. Diversity is not a clearly defined concept, nor is it one that is often considered to its fullest. Diversity encompasses both the presence of a large variety of personal denominations, (i.e gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation) as well as the inclusion of all parties in the same work or conversation. When considering a concept like diversity in an engineering context, it is important to note that although times have changed and the professional climate is much more diverse than in previous generations, we still have a lot of work to do. As engineers, we do work that is typically in the best interest or in direct service of the general public, and if that’s the case, wouldn’t we want to have a group with diverse backgrounds and opinions in order to better represent the general public?All that said, what is our role in all of this, what can we do as students? Well… I think we can begin with ourselves. The one thing I noticed the most throughout this conference was that among all the representatives of the LGBTQ+ community, women in engineering, varying ethnic groups and more, I was there as head delegate for my society: a straight white man who was relatively unaware of all of the concepts being presented to him, as well as the challenges people face on a daily basis.
Andrew deep in thought during one of the many sessions.
Privilege is a wonderful, terrible thing, as I’ve learned, and being able to recognize your own privileges is something that, I believe, will take you far. By opening my mind to different experiences and perspectives, I feel that I’ve started paving the way for how I would like to use my perspectives, opportunities and privileges in order to better serve others.
Prior to attending this conference, I had been considering running for an executive position under the engineering society. After seeing from other successful individuals the difference that one person can have in creating an inclusive, mutually serving environment, I’ve decided that I would absolutely run for that position. I feel that it’s my way of being able to use my position for the betterment of those around me and whom I represent. While I know that something that specific doesn’t apply to everyone, I also know that we engineering students are full of merit and that we each have areas in our lives where we can have an impact. Never underestimate your level of influence and impact. The choices we make affect those we represent, and we are more than capable of working toward industries and a society that considers and serves everyone. So start with yourself, you’d be amazed at what you can learn, as well as what you can do for others.
My Time At CDE
Hey! My name is Prachi Gupta, a Computer Engineering student, and I had the pleasure of attending CDE 2017 at McMaster, making it my first conference.My involvement with EngSoc has been pretty minimal, my first year was spent trying to figure out how to deal with my mental health troubles, and the drastic change that coming to university from the comforts of a home (12000km away) had been. This year, I decided to get out of my introverted shell, learn more about the issues that have impacted me, and use that knowledge to get involved in my community, which lead to me applying to attend CDE.The three day event exceeded any expectations I had for an amazing weekend. It started with all attendees sitting in a room, which caused a lot of nerves as I entered, but the calm environment full of smiling faces and eager to learn engineers told me I was in for 3 of the coolest days of my university life. The highlight of the weekend was the level of inclusivity, and care about the fact that attendees were from all different types of backgrounds from across the country. My favourite idea was the special sensory zone and peer support room that was set up through the event for anyone who needed it.
There’s lots of mingling to do and fun to be had at conferences!
The conference on diversity was very diverse indeed, with talks on topics that had impacted the lives of everyone attending. I was personally looking forward to the mental health related conversations, and the talks about how a diverse workforce has a huge impact on technological development, and the reach of businesses and firms. After every talk, there was a 30 minute coffee break, where I got to learn about not only what everyone thought about the talk, but also how they’ve in the past tried to implement such ideas in their communities. As someone who wants to increase her involvement with EngSoc and participate more in the inclusivity related events throughout campus, I was able to garner a variety of tips on how to handle the pressures of so much class time and at the same time ways to begin getting involved and making a change in the issues I’m passionate about.
Convincing myself to get out of my shell and attending CDE was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made. I learned how to empathise with how and why the diversity related issues exist in today’s world, and how to use those learnings to decrease the gap. After an awesome weekend, barely getting any sleep, dancing for 4 hours with super cool engineers, and meeting some of the most intellectually driven people I have, I would definitely be applying to attend more conferences, and increasing my involvement in the society!
Hi y’all, my name is Lindsay and you might know me from my weekly EngSoc facebook posts telling you that you should come hang out with me in POETS. Yeah, that’s right, I’m your friendly neighborhood EngiQueer (on A-Soc). And for those of you who haven’t seen my posts, here’s a bit more information. My name is Lindsay Glofcheskie, I’ve just finished my first year of Systems Design Engineering, and I’d like to think I’m pretty involved in EngSoc. I’m a class rep, I go to lots of events, and I’ve run both EngSoc goes to Pride and the UWaterloo EngiQueers group.So as you can likely deduce, I jumped at the chance to attend the Conference for Diversity in Engineering. The whole weekend was fantastic. I met so many different people with different ideas and different experiences. One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was exploring everyone’s unique intersectionality and hearing professionals talk about what they’ve experienced with these same identity traits. It was very inspiring to hear people talk about experiences that I share. Especially since I’ve not been exposed to many professionals who fit into a number of the same intersections that I do.
Junior also loves attending conferences.
I also enjoyed having a chance to be surrounded by all the people who’ve made it their goal to promote diversity in the engineering community. I especially liked the breaks between speeches and panels because there was scheduled “discuss what you’ve just heard” time. There were many good conversations that I hope to bring back and help our EngSoc with.
The most exciting part of the weekend, to me, was the EngiQueers Canada meet-up. It was interesting to hear how each of the different chapters run, different initiatives, executive setups, and frequency of events. I’ve definitely picked up some more ideas for our chapter of EngiQueers to use later.
Before CDE I figured that going to a conference would be a one-time, possibly two-time, thing for me. Coming out of the conference I’ve realized that I want to learn more about ESSCO, and help them in any way that I can. I’ve come out (pun intended) of the conference inspired to help bringing engineering to the forefront of diversity and with part of the network and tools I need to make a lasting difference.
Breaking the Status Quo
Hi, I’m Anastasiya Mihaylova, a second-year geological engineering student. In November, I attended the Conference for Diversity in Engineering hosted at McMaster University. Since 1A, I have been involved with EngSoc through Engineering Ambassadors and directorships, and I quickly realized that I wanted to do more. Hence, when a conference opportunity came up, especially one that speaks to close to my interest in diversity and inclusion, I had to take it up.CDE was the first engineering conference for me, and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived. I knew that I wanted to learn something meaningful that I could bring back into my daily life and to the Engineering Society, and that at some point we would all be trading patches, but beyond that I was just excited for what was to come.
Opening night mingling, before two incredible presentations on anti-oppression and mental health.
Over the weekend, I met so many incredible students from across the country – each with their own reason for choosing engineering, each with their own story to tell. The bonding moment when you meet someone from a program like your own from another school and province is unlike anything else. It was also really interesting to see that some of the speakers have never presented the ideas they were sharing with us anywhere else. It taught me that it is okay to take risks because we’re all just trying to make it in this world. While I enjoyed all of the sessions I attended, and sometimes wished I could be at two simultaneous sessions at once, my favourite one of the weekend was a panel discussion – Women of Colour in Engineering. These women are influential and highly successful in their fields, and I’m grateful for the wisdom and experience they shared with us. As someone who is never quite sure if she’s in the right engineering program, meeting a female leader in the mining industry was inspiring. One thing I wish I spoke to other students more about is the way their EngSocs are run. At Waterloo, EngSoc is an all-encompassing organization that works on political, academic and social levels. I wonder how it is at other schools, and why?
I hope that in the future, as I become more involved with the community at Waterloo, I get more opportunities like CDE to help me answer my question. Until then, I’m going to use the valuable knowledge and friends I gained at CDE to help foster a more inclusive, positive, and collaborative environment focused on educating, and breaking the status quo.
Making Friends Making Change
Hi, my name is Julia Reinstein. I’m a 2A Mechatronics Engineering student who was lucky enough to be one of Waterloo’s delegates at the Conference on Diversity in Engineering (CDE) at McMaster University this year.My involvement in EngSoc was slow to start. In 1A, I performed in EngPlay and attended a few events, but didn’t see myself taking on a larger role until 1B when I became a class rep. From there, I have only continued to add onto that. Most notably, I now run EngiQueers, a weekly social meet-up for LGBTQ+ students and allies, on B-Soc. When I became interested in attending a conference, CDE was an obvious choice. I wanted to learn how to foster a more inclusive environment and connect with other schools to learn what works for them.
The Waterloo delegation.
This conference did not disappoint! I got to attend so many sessions on creating inclusive spaces, as well as using diversity as an advantage when taking on challenges. I made connections with people making change in their engineering communities, which gave me a lot of insights on how to bring it back to Waterloo. Already I’m starting to implement plans to promote a more inclusive environment in our EngSoc. It was wonderful how friendly and excited everyone was to share ideas and relate to others. I found the discussions on how to run successful and inclusive events especially helpful as delegates from all different schools, positions, and individual experiences could share and find common ground. I can’t wait to implement some of these in future events I run.
I would definitely recommend attending a conference to anyone who thinks they might be interested. Even if you think it’s not your thing, you’d be surprised at how much you can get out of it. As an introvert, meeting so many people was a bit overwhelming at times, but even so, I’ve come out of the experience with vastly more knowledge and confidence in myself. There were resources to support delegates at every step (and the great food was a nice bonus). I hope to attend more conferences in the future to expand my network and step even further out of my comfort zone. It was a valuable experience to learn from others and get out of my own little Waterloo bubble.
Engineering Beyond Formulas and Equations
Hi! My name is Awn Duqoum and I am a third year Mechatronics Engineering student who was lucky enough to be selected to attend CDE 2017, which would be my first engineering conference.I have been pretty heavily involved with EngSoc and FEDS in my time here at UW and have held a number of positions all around campus serving in a variety of organizations. While I fully intended to learn as much as I could during the conference I was skeptical about how much would be covered. I can honestly say I was very pleasantly surprised by both the breadth of content and it’s depth. I often found myself struggling to pick from different concurrent workshops because they both sounded extremely interesting.Before leaving for the conference I sat down and drafted up a decision matrix to help me pick which sessions I would attend. The sessions I ended up picking were one were I could personally learn a lot from, ones that I had a decent background in and could dive deeper into, and ones that I knew would benefit EngSoc. While each and every sessions I attended ending up being a slam dunk in terms of content and delivery, two sessions stand out among them all for me personally : “Exploring and Understanding Peer Support by Peer Support Line McMaster” and “ Inclusivity and First Year Orientation
”. The first allowed me to learn a lot about how different universities treat peer support and how they dealt with a lot of the problems that I ran into with UW MATES. I came out of that sessions with two thoughts : “Waterloo is doing a lot of good with MATES” and “We have a long long road to travel before we can say that we are doing enough for our students”. The second one forced me to examine Waterloo’s orientation week and acknowledge that while it is my favorite part of engineering, it is still not perfect; I took the things I learned in that session to my FOC team to help make OWeek 2018 even better and more inclusive.
One big, happy CDE family.
While my conference experience revolved a lot around the things I’ve learned, it would be amiss to not mention the large social aspect of the conference. Outside of sessions there was a lot of time to socialize and network with the other delegates, and for me it was one of the best parts of the conference. Each delegate brought a unique skill set and perspective and getting to meet a diverse group of aspiring engineers really made the conference memorable. Outside of trading patches and various parts of my coveralls with other schools I was able to make meaningful connections with a number of the delegates and am currently still in touch with them.
In conclusion I could go on and on about my time at CDE and how much I loved it and I honestly think this blog post does not do the conference justice. The only regret I have in my undergraduate career is not applying for conferences sooner, not only are the a ton of fun but they really do help undergraduates develop the soft skills all engineers need to be successful in their future endeavors. To anyone reading this I really only have one final piece of advice to impart to you and that is : “You should 100% apply to be a delegate for CDE 2019!”.