Earlier this year, a good friend celebrated a major milestone in her life and career. She received her PhD in engineering education from Purdue University. Achieving her terminal degree is more than a footnote in an area of academia that still produces too few female graduates.
It was just four years ago that women surpassed men in receiving PhDs (all majors) in the U.S. [Ref 1] According to the Council of Graduate Schools, women slightly edged out men, earning 50.4% of the doctoral degrees. However, the numbers are far different for science and engineering majors. A future post will take a more in-depth look at the gender distribution of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors.
Anne’s interest in science and engineering began years ago as a young child who spent a lot of time tinkering – taking things a part and putting them back together. She played with any toy that interested her, most often it was LEGO’s and building toys. Her parents saw that the things she played with were functional and encouraged her to pursue a career that would utilize those innate skills.
As you probably already know, the story does not end there. At age 18, she went off to a small college in Minnesota and decided to major in biology and music. This didn’t set well with her parents or anyone else that knew her. However, after two years she saw the light. Perhaps it was her father reminding her that she had a younger sibling and saying, “You have two more years and then you’re done.” She realized that engineering was the right career path and transferred to Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI enrolling in mechanical engineering. She completed her bachelor of science there.
Following graduation, Anne joined ComEd (now Excelon) and worked primarily in nuclear power generation. She also gained practical experience in other areas of the company including fossil power generation, material engineering, and stockroom maintenance and reliability. She was employed with ComEd for 10 years.
Her next career move was to Driv-Lok as a cost estimating supervisor and applications engineer. She performed cost estimating and outside technical interface functions for production/manufacturing engineering and facilities operations.
Anne joined Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL as a mechanical engineer in 2001. Better known as Fermilab, this U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory does research in high-energy physics. She worked with the facility’s operations maintenance group supporting Fermilab’s unique research tools and infrastructure, and leading the resolution of many other problems ranging from chemical compatibility to electrical malfunctions.
Later she moved on to Caterpillar, Inc. as manufacturing engineering supervisor where she was responsible for managing large renovation and relocation projects.
As far as her decision to pursue a PhD degree, here’s what Anne has to say in her own words: I’ve been teaching as an adjunct since the late 80’s, concurrently while working. In industry I could see subject areas and practical knowledge that students really needed to know and understand to gain success after entering the work place. After researching various positions, I realized my greatest impact would be in a larger four-year university…and to make that impact would require a PhD. It took a number of years to find the right program. I applied and was turned down, later learning that some really didn’t think I would quit my current job and move into academia full-time. However, that didn’t stop me! My first semester I registered as a person pursuing graduate courses, paid my tuition and fees, and applied to that program. This was something I was going to do and it was going to happen. I matriculated and began taking courses with assistance from her advisor. I started in August 2011 and completed the program in August 2014.
How do I know Dr. Anne? She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Anne joined SWE in 1993 and has been active in the Chicago Regional Section as well as the national level of SWE. She has served in the leadership positions of Section Representative (six years), Vice President and President of her local section and as a member of the Career Guidance and Finance Committees. At the national level, she served two years as the Finance Committee Chair and one-term as Treasurer on the Board of Directors (BOD). She is also a Fellow and Life Member of SWE.
In addition to her engineering degrees, Anne also completed her MBA with an emphasis in finance and operations management. She has served as an adjunct faculty member at Waubonsee Community College, Oakton Community College, and McHenry County College where she taught a variety of courses in engineering, business, and mathematics. She also served on the Yorkville Planning Commission for 21 years, and chaired the commission for four years.
Anne is married with one daughter who just completed chef school. Currently, Dr. Anne is a Visiting Professor at Purdue University in the College of Technology.
|1. For first time, more women than men earn PhD, Scott Jaschik, USAToday, September 12, 2010, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-09-15-womenphd14_st_N.htm (last viewed on 12.26.2014)|