Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Web of Connection

One of the things I observed as an undergrad, was how the different groups of people that I met interacted with each other.  The ways in which the SCA crowd intersected with the RPG gaming crowd, and so on.  And each person also brought unique aspects to the community, as I also went to classes and did other things where most of my friends were not.

I started to see each activity or event as a node, and the people connected all the different nodes together, to form a web of community.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Question everything, including this

I've hit the point in both my "becoming an engineer" and "path to social justice concerns" stories that I can't avoid discussing my spirituality. I'm pondering a post about "the far side, where the fringes meet," but this will not be that post.

My parents were conservative, Catholic, Charismatics.  There's a lot to unpack from those three words.  One of the blogs that I subscribe to and periodically read, is Love, Joy, Feminism on Patheos.com.  Things were a little different in my family, where she was homeschooled by Evangelical Protestants, we went to Catholic schools and Catholic church... but that also is another post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wanted: Names of Top Women of Color in Engineering for Working List

Karen James (@kejames) has put together a working list of top women of color in biology.


Rachel McShane asked if she could do one for other STEM fields, and I volunteered to pull one together for Engineering.

Please Tweet or Leave a comment to add a name to any of these lists (or add a category, if I missed a discipline). Self-nominations welcome.

If you wish to be identified as a Woman of Color, please also let me know that.  Since the original list was intended to recognize women of color, I want to honor that intent in an appropriate and respectful way.

Top Women in Engineering


  • Aerospace Engineers
    • Nicole Chase, on Twitter @SpaceAgNicole, (self-nominated)
  • Biomedical
    • @Prinda (nominated by Cheng Lee)
  • Chemical Engineers
    • Kim Brooks, on Twitter @kbrooksfit, (self-nominated)
  • Civil Engineers
    • Katie Bates, on Twitter @kb8s (nominated by Cheng Lee)
    • Hannah Farrant, on twitter @hannahfarrant (nominated by Katie Bates)
    • Roma Agrawal, on Twitter @RomaTheEngineer (nominated by Katie Bates)
  • Computer Engineers
    • Tracy Chou (nominated by Kim Curry)
  • Electrical Engineers

  • Environmental Engineers
    • Carolyn Green (nominated by Rachel McShade)
    • @gkygirlengineer (nominated by Cheng Lee)
    • Laura Mixon, @MorganJLocke (self-nominated)
  • Industrial Engineers

  • Materials Engineers

  • Mechanical Engineers

  • Software Engineers
    • Joyce @joycehoUT (nominated by Cheng Lee)
    • Renee @BecomingDataSci (nominated by Cheng Lee)
  • Systems Engineers

  • Interdisciplinary Engineers


Monday, August 18, 2014

St. Louis Movie Nights

Two of the major inflection points in my life, both happened in the greater St. Louis area.

I have written several times about the Space Shuttle flying through Scott AFB while we were stationed there in the early 1980s.

As a college student in the late 1990s, I was hired as a cooperative education student for a company in St. Louis.  I lived in an apartment in Hazelwood, perhaps 5 miles away from Ferguson, MO.  My roommate was a Mechanical Engineering student from Florida, studying at Tuskegee.  Yes, she is black.

We moved in, in January, and she didn't have a winter coat.  I taught her what I knew about getting through snow, ice, and winter.  She taught me more.

Another set of male co-op students lived across the street from us, one from Tuskegee and the other from Iowa State.  The young man from Tuskegee was working near me, and had a car, so he was my ride to work.

Neither of them got very political.  They did, however, quietly pass on eating at Denny's.

On weekends, the Tuskegee students carried out the Movie Night tradition, and we usually joined them.  I didn't usually pick the movies.  This was a good thing, because the one time I did - well, Waterworld nearly made ME fall asleep.

I don't know the names of all the movies we watched.  We were roommates again in the fall, so there were probably 30-36 weekends, all told.  I don't remember how many movies we watched.  All I know, is that I watched, and they made me think.  I had studied my history, been taught in a social justice tradition, and yet the dry text did not drive home quite how bad it was.

[Major TRIGGER WARNING for this section, as I discuss the things I saw and learned from the movies, including discussions of rape, assault, lynchings]




As a female, I had been raised to be careful while walking.  I had a set of rules that I followed on campus, to try not to get raped:
  • Never go to a party alone, always go with a friend.
  • At a party, don't drink.  Or, if I do taste alcohol, don't ever get drunk.
  • In my first few years on campus, I almost never walked alone.  I'd usually get my fiance to walk me to evening midterms and activities.
I put a lot of time and energy into keeping myself safe on campus, and I didn't date around.  I met my now-husband my first week on campus, we got engaged in a matter of weeks, and we're still together.

So for all of the energy that I put into going through life without getting raped... to watch the movies, and realize what lynchmobs did to the women of color... that made me stop.
End Trigger Warning]




The movies made me feel.  They made me think.  It made me watch what I saw around me.

I don't know what I thought would happen after that.  I went back to campus for the summer, and took Sociology 100 as a Maymester course.  We learned about the Tuskegee syphilus study.  Stockholm syndrome.  Sociological research ethics.

My summer roommate was also black.  She told me a little bit about the Black - Native American heritage.  When we moved out at the end of the summer, she had a textbook that she offered to me.  Malcolm X's biography.  I accepted it, and I read it.


I had my own car when I went back for the Fall semester.  I got involved with a nearby community band.  Doing a Google search, I suspect it was the Northwinds Concert Band.

Northwinds Concert Band is a program of the Community Education Department of Ferguson-Florissant School District.

The 1990's in the St. Louis area, started to wake me up.  Continued to wake me up?  They changed my views on life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Owning My Privilege

If you are reading this, please go check out @gildedspine's tweets about the #yesallwomen hashtag today.  She is the one who started it all.  I knew, that evening, however given the hate and bullying she was receiving I withheld her name on my previous post.

As I read through her tweets, as I think about what has happened in Ferguson, MO this weekend, and I listen to the Twitter response... what all of my blog posts are coming to, both the "becoming an engineer" series in progress AND the "social justice background" posts, are about owning my privilege.

Because engineers do make a decent amount of money.  I do not own a yacht, nor any kind of boat.  I do, however, live in a comfortable house, I pay my bills, I have medical care, we keep food on the table, and we have a little bit for investing & discretionary spending.  All of that, is privilege.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Big City - Small Town

In a previous post, I began the story of my own understanding of diversity and social justice.  I said then that I was not sure when or if I would be ready to tell part 2.  However, I have had time in the past seven weeks to think about it, and to begin to tell the story.  This is turning into a longer series than I thought.

As a child, I wished I grew up in a small town, the kind of place where I might have a teacher who had taught one or both of my parents, where aunts and uncles were around, and where people knew who I / my family was.  Not that we needed to be famous, popular, or rich.  Just, I wanted to be in a place where my family belonged.

My sophomore year of high school, my father was discharged from the Air Force.  Dad finished his degree (a second Bachelor's), and over the summer they began job hunting in earnest.  When he was hired for a job in rural Indiana, we moved.

Culture Shock

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer of Art

I have been working on Part 2 of my social justice series, but today I'm going to take a break from it and talk about my summer of art.

Before I do that, I want to backtrack and talk a little bit about my grandmother.  See, her mother died when she was only a week old, so my grandmother didn't really know her mom.  Into her 80's, she could be heard saying "My mother never taught me...".

Now... I love my grandmother, and I am sorry that she lost her mom.  But I figure, that's something that dominated the first 20, perhaps 30 years of her life.  I'd accept that excuse from a youngster.

Eventually?  Somewhere in the 20s or 30s, I would hope, I figure that I am responsible for my own life.  Whatever happened in my childhood that held me back then... well, now I'm a grownup, and responsible for my own learning.  If I want to learn something, I'm going to set out to do it.  Even old-school, I could always go to the library and find books with ideas, read the newspaper for classes and seminars, check the phone book for schools.  New-school, it can start with Google.

In the past, I have written about the hangups and holdups that I had with my music and art.  As an undergrad, while I did participate in the bands, I focused my non-class activities on engineering homework and other things, rather than music practice.