AWARES Graduates Fourth Class of Participants

May. 8, 2019
Dr. Melissa Briggs-Phillips delivered the 2019 graduation keynote

The Aspiration for Women’s Advancement and Retention in Engineering and Sciences (AWARES) program has just graduated its fourth class of students. Participation has more than doubled this year, with 38 students and 38 mentors actively involved. 

This year’s graduation keynote speaker was Dr. Melissa Briggs-Phillips, Founder and Owner of Next Generation Behavioral Health, a full service clinical and consulting psychology practice.

Dr. Briggs-Phillips addressed crucial concepts in her graduation address, including methods to combatting and managing Imposter Syndrome, emotional regulation, keeping a positive perspective, taking career oriented and calculated risks, and anxiety.

While certificates of recognition and appreciation were given to program participants, three students each shared a scripted one-minute talk. This activity was one of the last completed by AWARES students, which asked them to respond to the prompt: why should I stay in engineering?

Andi Garver, an Integrated Systems Engineering major, titled her talk “Why Not,” as a direct response to the prompt’s question. 

Sarah Matthiesen, an Environmental Engineering major, was also asked to share her talk. “You will always be an engineer. Engineering is not just a career, but a way of thinking and you have been thinking this way for too long to go back,” she wrote. 

Hannah Demetry, an Integrated Systems Engineering major major, shared her experience of coming across humanitarian engineering as a calling to stay in engineering: “We, as engineers, have a valuable skill to solve problems; specifically problems that can help others.” 

Founded by Dr. Gonul Kaletunc in 2015, AWARES strives to improve the social skills, management skills, networking skills and confidence levels of women engineers. Through the program, students meet bi-weekly with assigned women mentors from their future industry to discuss personal stories and strategies for success. Following these 1-on-1 meetings, students further their discussions in large group learning community meetings. Through sharing these experiences, students can recognize problems and work together to develop solutions.

Kaletunc values the personal connections formed between the students and their mentors. She has seen firsthand the positive impact that the program has brought upon women in engineering and science.

“Throughout the program, we provide guidance to students to develop their soft skills which will be essential to build confidence to handle difficult situations tactfully in the work place, to be proactive in managing their careers by developing career goals and revising them, and to recognize and take advantage of opportunities for advancement. We emphasize how important it is for them to stay in their profession, to be role models to inspire young girls and women, and to support each other.” Kaletunc said.

During her closing remarks, Kaletunc also shared a quote from the scripted talk of another student, Madeline Otto, a Materials Science & Engineering major.  “As a young girl, I always knew that more men were in STEM fields than women, but never thought too much about why, and figured that any kind of unequal treatment was a thing of the past. Now that I am in the midst of an engineering education, it has become clear that this isn’t the case. While it can be frustrating to have to prove myself more than my male peers do in order to be taken seriously, I want to reverse that stigma.”

AWARES is currently recruiting students for the 2019-2020 school year. If you are interested in joining AWARES, please apply online at If you have any questions about the program, contact Dr. Gonul

by Chip Tuson

The AWARES Class of 18-19 was the largest thus far in program history