Elizabeth Wilson felt like an outsider when she first joined the College of Engineering in 2020. Coming from the School of Art, she had a different backstory than most of her fellow undergraduates.
“I didn’t plan on going to school for engineering originally, so I was actually very intimidated,” said Wilson.
Since then, the environmental engineering junior has found her way and is focused on welcoming others into the college.
“For me, it was about being able to have a community from all these different backgrounds in engineering and seeing how they were making their own path.”
Now president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Wilson was among leaders from 45 clubs greeting hundreds of engineering students who piled into the Student Union Memorial Ballroom at the start of the fall 2023 semester. Many of the students were getting their first look at the college’s far-reaching clubs.
From racing vehicles and building airwave communications to brewing and welding, clubs are not just places for students to try out skills, they also are avenues to serving their communities, making a difference and laying the groundwork for careers in engineering.
Most engineering students at the University of Arizona do not declare their majors until after the first year of studies. They have the freedom to explore the college’s 17 majors. Clubs and organizations are a big part of their journey.
To Each Her Own Path
Wilson, along with 70 other active members who have found a home in SWE, is paving the way for upcoming engineering students.
“I think it's helpful to see what those different career paths and opportunities look like,” said Wilson, “Especially when you don’t see yourself navigating the most stereotypical path.”
SWE facilitates a career mentorship program called SWEeties that matches upperclass students with underclass club members. For high schoolers, Shadow a SWEster brings students from across the country to the university to spend a day with club members and attend a special luncheon with faculty members.
Building a Way to a Better World
“I hang out with these guys all the time,” said Ortega, who is now president of the student organization. “We all do homework, help each other out with projects and have game socials.”
Club members also bond around national competitions. The UA team placed second in ASCE’s regional Intermountain Southwest Student Symposium at the University of Nevada, Reno, in April 2023.
The competitions and other club events not only test the mettle of up-and-coming engineers, they also provide a forum with professionals.
“Every other week we have companies talk to students,” Ortega said, explaining that members can apply for internships and even land jobs during the club meetings.
Locally, the society builds house frames with Habitat for Humanity, an organization that constructs safe homes for low-income and underserved populations.
Racing Past the Finish Line
The end of the academic year is not necessarily a hard stop for student clubs. In fact, some, like Wildcat Formula Racing and BAJA Wildcat Racing, pick up the pace.
The Wildcat Formula Racing Club – dividing into groups that focus on different areas, like framing, aerodynamics and electronics – works year-round designing, refining and testing the team’s car for the annual Formula SAE competition, set for Michigan in May 2024.
Sister organization BAJA Wildcat Racing Club, which placed 25th in a field of 100 at BAJA SAE 2023 in Washougal, Washington, share workshop space as the teams gear up for the races.
“It was fun to see our car – a year’s worth of engineering – become something that can race and compete,” said Joseph Lee, BAJA director of operations.
Join Your Club Today
Find your club match on the UA College of Engineering’s list of engineering clubs.