Gardyartu Freeman and Melanie Leyson at WE23

Two Oregon Tech graduate students, Melanie Leyson and Gardyartu Freeman, recently participated in the Society of Women Engineers National Conference (WE23) held in Los Angeles from Oct. 27-29. The event allowed both students to engage with professionals in engineering and technology fields and gain valuable insights into their chosen careers.

Leyson, a graduate student in Renewable Energy Engineering, expressed her appreciation for the conference's focus on building a sense of belonging and authenticity. "The wide range of session topics and the extensive career fair presented opportunities to explore a multitude of industries featuring engineering,” Leyson said. “I returned home with new connections, more knowledge of the hydrogen economy, and actionable ways to build a sense of belonging and authenticity among my peers at Oregon Tech and in my workplace."

Leyson currently works at POWER Engineers, where she began as an intern and was hired into a full-time position as a Distribution Engineer I when she finished her undergraduate work at Oregon Tech. POWER Engineers sponsored Leyson’s WE23 registration and paid her for attendance at the professional training.

Freeman, also a Renewable Energy Engineering graduate student, highlighted the conference’s impact on her personal and professional development. "It was fascinating to learn about the impact of engineers in healthcare as someone with a manufacturing background and who has worked with infusion pumps,” Freeman said. “It was fantastic to hear others present on issues I've already been working on during the personal development sessions. As a result, having them reiterate the message was immensely welcomed."

In addition to her studies at Oregon Tech, Freeman is working on a Google Project Management certificate to pivot to Project Management.

Oregon Tech's student organization, the Society of Women Engineers Portland-Metro (SWE PM), sponsored travel for the two students. The SWE PM is a chapter of the international Society of Women Engineers, a global organization that advocates for women in engineering. With approximately 40,000 members, including students, professionals, and retirees, the Society of Women Engineers aims to promote professional quality, globalization, advocacy, and diversity in engineering and technology.

On behalf of SWE PM, Oregon Tech’s Student Involvement and Belonging Director Thomas Arce emphasized the department's commitment to supporting student leadership development and providing opportunities for all Oregon Tech students.

“We appreciate the opportunities our Oregon Tech student organization leaders can gain from attending industry-focused national association-based conferences,” Arce said. “Student leaders can practice the leadership and networking skills they learn from their participation with our university's co-curricular offerings.”