As Northeastern’s student organizations move to an online format this semester due to COVID-19 regulations, clubs that provide resources for women in STEM and foster community are finding ways to adapt.
For women planning to enter male-dominated STEM fields, making connections with other women in the same situation is vital. Under normal circumstances, clubs are able to bring in speakers and host events in order to forge bonds between members. The speakers and events look different this semester, but leaders of student organizations for women in STEM are determined to create bonds as strong as ever.
“I’ve noticed that in the pandemic, all of our members have been very enthusiastic about social meetings and ways to interact with each other” said Emma Price, a third-year computer science and music technology major, who is vice president of Northeastern Women in Technology, or NUWIT.
In previous semesters, NUWIT had welcome dinners, meetings to plan class schedules, interview workshops and panels with different companies. Despite roadblocks with the online format this semester, NUWIT will be hosting more community building events than in the past.
Anuradha Lal, NUWIT’s outreach chair, is a third-year computer science and math major. She said that the organization’s new emphasis on social events has brought together even upperclassmen who have already established social circles.
“It started as an effort to reach freshmen,” she said. “But it’s kind of benefited everyone.”
The Society of Women Engineers at Northeastern, or SWE, used to hold community building events, including pumpkin carving, escape rooms, volunteer opportunities and panels to help with deciding majors and making industry connections.
Sara Liebler, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student and president of SWE, and Carey Tassel, a third-year mechanical engineering student and SWE’s vice president, are hopeful their organization will still be able to provide many of the same services.
Fostering a sense of community is difficult over Zoom, but Tassel says their objective is still to create a welcoming environment.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we’re aware that we’re all in the same boat and that we can help each other just by being there for each other,” she said.
Riya Chandra, a fourth-year business administration major with a minor in data science, is the head facilitator of Girls Who Code at Northeastern. In past years, Girls Who Code offered an opportunity for girls in grades six through 12 from neighboring areas to come to Northeastern and work on a coding project in a computer science lab every Saturday for 10 weeks.
This year, girls in the program meet with Northeastern student facilitators on a Google Hangout. According to Chandra, the girls are limited by internet and computer access this year as they no longer have access to Northeastern’s technology.
Regardless, Girls Who Code has still been able to encourage local girls in coding and create valuable relationships with them.
“I actually feel like we’re more engaged with the girls online since we’re all talking together online versus when we were in the classroom everyone had their own laptop and was kind of focused on their computer,” Chandra said.