Pieronek receives engineering society’s inaugural outstanding adviser award

Author: William G. Gilroy and Nina Welding


Catherine F. Pieronek, director of academic affairs and the Womens Engineering Program in the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, has received the first ever Outstanding Faculty Adviser Award from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

The inaugural award, honoring a SWE leader who has made outstanding contributions to a collegiate section as an adviser, was presented during the societys national conference in Nashville, Tenn., last month. Pieronek was cited for herdedication to female undergraduates through support of the Notre Dame Collegiate Section, developing it into a premier organization in the College of Engineering, and for implementing programs that have dramatically improved the retention of female engineering students.

Pieronek joined the College of Engineering in 2002 in order to establish the womens engineering program and address the low retention rate of women from the first through sophomore years.

In her first semester, Cathy mobilized and energized a group of women who quickly established SWE as the most prominent and effective student organization in the College of Engineering,says Frank P. Incropera, dean emeritus and the Clifford and Evelyn Brosey Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.Whether the activity involved recruitment of prospective women engineering students, outreach programs for high school and grade school students in the community or assuming major responsibilities for the colleges Industry Career Day, the outcomes have been spectacular.

Pieroneks initial program and initiatives led to a 25 percent improvement in the retention rate of female students, placing it on par with male engineering students. The number of admitted engineering women choosing to attend the University also increased by more than 20 percent. In addition, membership in the SWE Notre Dame Collegiate Section increased from a handful of women to more than 75 active members.

During Pieroneks tenure as section advisor, SWE-ND has hosted a successful Region H Conference and won the societys Outstanding Collegiate Section Award for a medium-sized section for 2006 and 2007. It also has been recognized for its outstanding success on campus, including club of the year in 2003, and outstanding program of the year in 2005.

A senior member of SWE, Pieronek also is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), as well as a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and Women Engineering Program Advocates Network (WEPAN). Her focus on engineering education, particularly issues that affect the retention of women in engineering, has led to the publication of numerous papers and presentations at conferences sponsored by SWE, AIAA, ASEE, WEPAN and Frontiers in Education.

Pieronek was graduated cum laude from Notre Dame with a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering in 1984. She earned a masters degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1987 and a law degree from Notre Dame in 1995. Prior to joining the College of Engineering, Pieronek served as director of law school relations at the University and as a senior systems engineer at TRW Space&Defense Sector in Redondo Beach, Calif.

For more information about the SWE-ND section, visit http://www.nd.edu/~swe .For more information about Notre Dames Womens Engineering Program, visit http://www.nd.edu/~engwomen .

Founded in 1950, the Society of Women Engineers is a not-for-profit educational and service organization that encourages women to succeed, advance and be recognized for their contributions as engineers and leaders. The organization consists of nearly 100 professional sections, 300 student sections and numerous members-at-large.

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