Tricia Berry holds the prestigious position of the director of Women In Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin; she is in charge of recruitment retention and graduation of women from the Cockrell School of Engineering. “I have a staff of folks who help run programs, everything from Introduce a Girl To Engineering Day (a program that reaches 2,000+ girls on a Saturday as part of Engineers Week) to current student programs where we bring in role models from the industry to connect with our students and share their experiences. We also have leadership development programs where we help students understand who they are as a leader and gain some skills along the way.”
The Start of an Engineering Career: At a young age, Tricia was inspired to go into the engineering field. “I had great science teachers when I was in middle school and high school who got me excited about the possibilities within the STEM field. I also did a lot of exploration when I was in high school.” Because of her interest in science, she attended engineering summer camps and explored what options were out there for her. She kept coming back to the applied side of science that engineering had. After high school she attended The University of Texas at Austin where she majored in chemical engineering.She was involved in a number of student organizations. One of the groups that Tricia was most active in was the Society of Women Engineers. Their mission is to stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity. The chapter at UT Austin organized events with corporate speakers and did outreach events in the community to get girls excited about engineering.
Texas Girls Collaborative Project: In addition to her full time job, Tricia is also heavily involved with the Texas Girls Collaborative Project. The project connects non-profits, K-12 schools, higher education institutions, companies, organizations and individuals across the state of Texas committed to informing and motivating girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As an added bonus, it is driven by the Women In Engineering program at UT Austin. “In Texas, we are trying to connect all of those organizations, schools, non-profits, and companies who want to engage more girls in STEM. We disseminate best practices, resources, and curriculum that people can turn around and use in schools or after-school programs that are designed to engage girls in STEM.” The women in engineering program at UT Austin helps with providing forums, curriculum, best practices and resources to foster collaborations. The group also builds capacity of participating organizations and creates a state-wide network of formal and informal STEM educators and advocates.
GLUE Program: Another program that Tricia is involved with is the Graduates Linked with Undergraduates in Engineering (GLUE) program at UT Austin. This retention program gives students early in their college career the hands-on engineering experience that they don’t necessarily get in their classes. “It gives them a glimpse of work that they might be doing when they graduate. It gives them an idea of how their current classes connect with engineering classes. And it gives them that role model as a graduate student as well as their peers who they can learn from, connect with, and explore other options in engineering. It gives them their first glimpse of what they can do as an engineer.” This program has kept retention rates high in the engineering school.
825 Basics: Tricia and her business partner started 825 Basics as a way to help individuals assess their career strategies. The business uses interactive workshops, unique keynotes, and career story coaching to help people achieve their career aspirations. “We help people understand how to look at what they have been doing in their career and figure out how to chart their own path. We show them how to define success for themselves and how to take a look at past trends across jobs that they have had. We figure out how to look at all of that in a way to find out what that next step might be for them.”
Being A Female in A Male Dominated Profession: In her role, Tricia hears feedback from former students and young professionals about the challenges females face in this male dominated profession.“They comment on how they are the only person or the only female on a team or project group. That continues to be something that people have to work through and learn how to be confident in those situations and how to make sure your voice is heard in those situations. I think what is promising is that you do hear more and more about people being part of teams that have more of a critical mass of women on them. The awareness of the need for diverse teams and having that diversity of thought and experiences and what that can bring to engineering better solutions has really shifted. The males in the room now advocate more and are now more aware of the importance of diversity. The culture is slowly shifting.”
Advice For Women Going Into the Engineering Field: “One of the things I always like to tell students, what I love about engineering, is that it is so diverse. There are so many different things that you can do with that degree. The hardest part is figuring out what to major in right off the bat because there are so many things you can do. And so, my advice is to pick one that seems to have classes of the most interest, or seem to have jobs that connect with things that you are interested in. But, keep in mind that, at the end of the day, having that degree gives you those problem-solving skills that you can apply in any career. Having that engineering degree allows you to have the world wide open to you down the road.”
Passion: “I love 825 Basics. I really love when people have those ‘ah-ha moments,’ whether it is ‘I am in the right job for me’ or ‘I think this is a place where I need to go explore. This might be what I love.’ I get to do that with my University of Texas at Austin work as well. Students get really excited about a job possibility or project that they are working on. I get to see them get excited and grow as students, leaders, and engineers throughout the course of their college careers. The Texas Girls Collaborative Project, another thing I am really passionate about, is fostering collaborations and not reinventing the wheel. I get to do all of that with my work.”
Most Inspiring Woman Role Model: First and foremost, Tricia’s first role model was her mother. Her mother was the one that pushed Tricia to attend summer camps that allowed her to explore many different fields. “She really pushed me to try and explore different things and she really gave me the opportunity to do that.” The second role model Tricia had was her high school science teacher. She invited Tricia to be a student lab assistant during her time there and gave her a behind the scene look at preparing for labs. “She also was the one who never stopped learning herself. She was constantly in some sort of enrichment class for herself to learn more and gain some more knowledge. Her love of science and her passion for learning really got me excited about what I could do.”
Finally, cats or dogs?: “Dogs!”
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