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Leveraged Empowerment

Lehigh Women Engineers illuminate a 'dimly-lit room' with Dr. Christine Grant

"How many of you like Dr. Seuss?" asked Dr. Christine Grant to the crowd gathered in Packard 101. Most hands shot up in the air. "What’s you favorite Dr. Seuss book?" she continued. Students shouted out "The Lorax," "Green Eggs and Ham," amongst other titles. Dr. Grant proceeded to read a poem that she was inspired to write in her office one night. Her poem was full of tongue twisters and rhymes, imitating the style of the famous author. "Sounds like Dr. Seuss, right?" It certainly did.

On February 10th, 2015, students and faculty alike congregated in Packard to hear Dr. Christine Grant give the keynote address of the Lehigh’s Women Engineers inaugural 2014-2015 program entitled LEHIGH: Leveraged Empowerment: Having Innovation, Going Higher. Last semester, the program hosted a welcome reception for the 162 women matriculating into the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science during the first week of classes, as well as a panel discussion in November. The Lehigh Women Engineers program is sponsored in part by UGI Utilities, Inc.

The LWE program introduces new female engineering students to the many valuable resources available to them to support their academic success. Panel discussions and receptions allow for the students to ask questions of the program’s community of undergraduate, graduate, and female faculty members.

Grant is a professor and associate dean of Faculty Development and Special Initiatives in the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University. She holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brown University and Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Grant’s areas of focus are surface and environmental science, mass transfer, and biomedical cell systems. She leads innovative Leveraged Empowerment leadership programs at middle and high schools, universities, and with university professors, with an emphasis on increasing the participation of women and people of color in STEM fields.

"Inspired to succeed, but expected to fail. There are a lot of people who don’t expect us to be successful. As women engineers, there are a lot of obstacles we face," Dr. Grant started as she explained the first step for women to prove excellence. She introduced the concept of a "dimly lit room" – an environment of naysayers and those who do not understand. She encouraged women in these unsupportive environments to prove their naysayers wrong by achieving excellence and to find a new environment where their work will be supported. The second step is to hold one’s own and make it to the finish line of achieving one’s goals. Her final step is to achieve the highest education possible and to obtain leadership roles.

Other tips that Dr. Grant offered the female engineers included finding an advocate to standup for them, their beliefs and ideas, and to help that woman find her voice in her professional setting. She also promoted finding a mentor to help advance the women in their fields.

When audience members entered Packard 101 prior to the address, they were each handed an envelope which contained a card. Towards the end, Dr. Christine Grant encouraged the women to think about their "outside the academic career box goals" and to write them down on the card. Finding one’s goal includes identifying the goal, creating a plan of how to achieve it and resources that can be used, and executing the plan. The cards were later used to raffle off a few gifts that Dr. Grant brought along with her, including books and journals.

"Leveraged empowerment takes what you have, combines it with what you need to create a powerful portfolio that will connect your personal dreams with professional reality. That is what leveraged empowerment is."

-Aislinn Strohecker ’18 is a writer with the Dean’s Office of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

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