The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) recognized Penn State’s Engineering Mentoring for Internship Excellence (EMIX) program with the WEPAN Women in Engineering Initiative Award. The national award was presented at the Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) Conference in Arlington, Virginia, in April, and also recognized California State Polytechnic University’s Cal Poly Pomona Women in Engineering Program.

WEPAN, a national organization, works to increase the number and advance the prominence of diverse communities of women in engineering and annually awards programs that demonstrate excellence in this shared mission. The Women in Engineering Initiative Award specifically recognizes programs that serve as models for other institutions.

“The EMIX initiative is designed to prepare women and underrepresented engineering and computer science interns for a seamless transition to the engineering workplace,” said Cheryl Knobloch, the director of the Women in Engineering Program in the Penn State College of Engineering. Knobloch directs the EMIX initiative, as well. “The overarching goal is to strategically elevate opportunities for industry partners to recruit, retain and advance diverse technical talent.”

Students that align with the parameters established by EMIX corporate partners are invited to apply to the program in the fall. Twelve to 25 students annually are matched with a corporate sponsor and enrolled into the spring course. During the spring semester, the EMIX student interns participate in targeted professional development to enhance professional skills while researching the company sponsor in preparation of the summer internship.

In its 13th year, EMIX has engaged more than 250 participants, all of whom have graduated and many of whom ultimately begin their engineering and computer science careers with the company where they interned. EMIX participants have interned in 10 different states with 15 different corporate partners.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the development EMIX provided before I even stepped foot in the company was extremely valuable for my future success,” said Nicole Gallegor, who graduated from Penn State in 2017 with a degree in mechanical engineering. She completed the EMIX program and interned at Rockwell Automation in 2015. “I cannot begin to put into words how strongly I recommend the program to other students whenever I get the opportunity.”

Now, Gallegor is in the Engineering Services Leadership Development Program, a prestigious rotational leadership opportunity at Rockwell Automation.

Katy Stepansky Ziats echoed Gallegor’s praise. Ziats, who started her undergraduate career at Penn State Greater Allegheny, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2014. Currently, Ziats is an electrical maintenance supervisor at ArcelorMittal, where she completed her EMIX internship in 2012.

“EMIX does more than set students up for success; it empowers future engineers to embrace and accept any challenge that comes their way and stop at nothing until they thrive,” Ziats said. “EMIX has, without a doubt, changed my life for the better. Without the confidence and support EMIX gave me, I would not be the engineer I am today.”

The program has inspired such success that it’s now being replicated at other universities.

“In true scholarly fashion, the successful Penn State EMIX program model has been shared with other universities in an effort to scale up the outcomes and share best practices,” Knobloch said.

Knobloch presented the program model, methodologies and metrics at a previous WEPAN conference and the 2018 CoNECD conference. She has also worked with industry and the University of Wisconsin to roll out their own versions of EMIX.

“The EMIX initiative significantly enriches the potential these undergraduates have to impact the technical workplace and elevates their opportunities for advancement. Their confidence heightens as a function of the professional proficiencies they acquire,” said Knobloch. “Our EMIX students are empowered to immediately engage in the technical environment with a keen understanding of the sponsor products and initiatives. Consequently, EMIX students make an immediate, measurable impact in their internship and, as importantly, elevate diversity within the corporate sponsor career pathways.”

Knobloch also noted the critical importance of corporate partners.

“Our corporate partners are the lynchpin to the EMIX program model success,” Knobloch said. “Our valued sponsors share our strategic diversity and inclusion vision and provide the technical internships that are crucial to the program. These partners intentionally fortify the pipeline with diverse technical talent prepared to succeed.”

Potential corporate sponsors are invited to contact Knobloch year-round to learn more about the program via the EMIX website.

WEPAN is a network of thought and change leaders from institutions, organizations and agencies that works to propel higher education to increase the number and advance the prominence of diverse communities of women in engineering. WEPAN connects people, research and practice; and powers initiatives, projects and professional development that equip advocates with the tools to create sustainable, systems-level changes that allow ALL in engineering to thrive.