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Celebrating women empowerment in engineering technologies

For two years, Lauryn A. Stauffer has seen only male faces in her electronics classes at Pennsylvania College of Technology. This fall, she’ll at least see multiple women leaders within the School of Engineering Technologies, who boasts three female assistant deans.

Kathleen D. Chesmel and Ellyn A. Lester were hired in late spring to head the Materials Science and Engineering Technologies Division and the Construction and Architectural Technologies Division, respectively. They join longtime college employee Stacey C. Hampton, who is assistant dean of industrial and computer technologies.

“It’s hard transitioning into male-dominated fields,” she said. “My first year, I felt lost because basically all the guys in class didn’t want anything to do with me. Mr. (Ken J.) Kinley and Mr. (Randall L.) Moser (assistant professors of electronics and computer engineering technologies) were great, but it wasn’t until this past year when the guys started to realize I don’t bite.

“I didn’t have any female mentors, and they (the assistant deans) will be a great resource. I can go to them for advice or just to talk. Honestly, it means a lot.”

“STEM careers provide an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of changes in technology, changes in advancements and changes in ways to improve our lives… These careers have layers of opportunities,” explained Davie Jane Gilmour, Penn College president.

“Having three women in leadership roles for engineering technologies speaks well for Penn College because they bring diverse backgrounds and interesting perspectives for prospective and existing students,” she added.

“When I started, I knew engineering in my head but didn’t know all the intricacies behind it and the creative career possibilities. I wish I knew that when I was a young student because I might have gone into plastics or some other technical field,” she said.

“When you can bring people together with various expertise and perspectives and work together for the common good, it’s amazing,” Lester said.

During the 2020-21 academic year, the student population in the divisions represented by the three assistant deans was about 91% male.

“Traditionally, STEM fields have not had a lot of women role models. Now we have three female assistant deans in engineering who can show young women coming into our programs that STEM is a possibility for them. It’s like, ‘She did it; so can I,’ “ said Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies. said.

“For sure, I’m going to tell them (students) that we have three assistant deans for engineering who are female,” Stauffer said. “I’m very Penn College proud about that!”

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