“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”  

– Lucille Ball

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A Note from the President
By Christiana Aguirre

May was a very special month for SWE-CI, our virtual SWE-CI Awards Event was a great success. We had a long list of nominees and it was a difficult task for the Awards Committee to choose the winner for each category. Gary Uken received the prestigious Pillar of Support Award and he is the first male ally to ever receive an award from SWE-CI. We need more allies like Gary to help us carry on our SWE mission. We also celebrated Ursula Towne and Melanie Willi, the recipients of SWE-CI Distinguished member and Outstanding Advocate Award, respectively. Our dear member Yanchai Zhang was the recipient of the Outstanding Engineer Award, with more than 30 patents received and I am sure many more yet to come! It feels good to celebrate our members’ successes! 

The Professional Development Committee closed its Speaker Event Series with a very special guest speaker, Dr Robyn McKay. What an inspiring event! She spoke on the importance of practicing gratitude, living with an optimistic mind set and hoping for a better tomorrow. We can all relate to this, especially now that this pandemic seems to be coming to an end. It is an exciting time for all of us!

It is with a lot of excitement that I announce the FY22 SWE-CI Elected Officers. We had an outstanding list of candidates and it was a very close election. Thanks to all members for voting! I know it was hard to select only one person for each position, because they were all equally qualified and great! The elected officers that will support our next President Fiona O'Laughlin are: Thuong Le (FY22 President- Elect), Laura Ruiz-Santamaria (FY22 Secretary) and Lauren Duvall (FY22 Treasurer). I have to say that SWE-CI will be in very good hands with these ladies! You all rock!!

SWE-CI Leaders

Congratulations to the new FY22 SWE-CI leadership team!


SWE-CI Membership Spotlight: Kimbra Bader & Marie Stoops

Hello! My name is Kimbra and I’m a manufacturing engineer for Off Highway Truck final assembly at Caterpillar Decatur. I’m originally from Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering. While in school I did three ME internships with Caterpillar and joined the Leadership and Technical Development Program after graduating. For my rotations I was a site buyer in Decatur IL, a manufacturing engineer for Solar Turbines in San Diego CA and a section manager for the Seals foundry in Mapleton IL. In 2018 I grad placed as a point of use section manager in Decatur IL where I supported LMT and LWL final assembly. I recently moved into my current role and am enjoying dusting off my engineering skills! At Iowa State I worked for the Engineering Outreach Programs department where I interacted with elementary through high school students on STEM activities. I was not involved in SWE at school but since joining as a professional member I have appreciated the networking and growth opportunities. I am looking forward to getting more involved and continuing to interact with students interested in pursuing a career in STEM!

Hello! My name is Marie and I’m the 620 Platform Lead for Wheel Tractor Scrapers. I am originally from and currently working in Decatur. I graduated from Saint Louis University in 2014 with a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and minor Mathematics. I got involved with SWE while in college. I enjoyed volunteering for STEM outreach within the community, tutoring and holding events for elementary aged kids. It was also great building lasting relationships with women with similar career aspirations. I am happy to again become an active member within SWE as a professional member. I remember attending my first SWE conference in Houston as a junior in college, and recently was able to attend a virtual networking event as a professional with local university students. It was inspiring to meet young women with such great potential and excitement toward their futures in engineering. I am looking forward to continuing to get more involved! 

Together we are currently serving as the Decatur Area Representatives for SWE-CI. While the pandemic has provided a bit of challenge to our plans, we recently hosted a hike at a local park for the group. It was nice to enjoy the fresh air and safely start to interact with women and peers in the STEM field. We are looking forward to things getting a bit more back to “normal” and hosting more engagement events for the Decatur area.


May Events

Thank you to all the dedicated volunteers contributing their time to help SWE support successful events throughout May!

SWE-CI Awards Ceremony:

On May 13th, we celebrated SWE Central Illinois award winners which was followed by our guest speaker Karen Jensen (President & CEO of Farnsworth Group). Award winners were Ursula Towne for Distinguished Member Award, Yanchai Zhang for Outstanding Engineer Award, Melanie Willi for Outstanding Advocate Award, and Gary Uken for Pillar of Support Award.


SWE CI presented to CASA Choices, a monthly program to highlight different career options to kids in the CASA program in Central Illinois. CASA is a child advocacy program for those in foster care, or who are independent but had been in foster care when under 18, and still utilizing the services.
Lisa Burt presented on Chemists, and Chemical Engineering opportunities, Sowmya Nagesh presented on Electrical Engineering careers, Ursula Towne and Nicole Warnstedt summarized various options in Mechanical opportunities and we also had Sam Chadwick discuss the THINKBIG program with CAT and ICC, and Adam St Clair present on Diesel Technician opportunities with CAT and other local industry.

Professional Development Committee:

"Living & Leading During Uncertain Times" with Dr. Robyn McKay:

On May 18, the Society of Women Engineers Central Illinois wrapped up our Professional Development series with our final event, “Living & Leading During Uncertain Times” featuring Dr. Robyn McKay.  Dr. McKay is an award-winning psychologist and advisor, who helps innovative companies and high-performing people identify and rise to their next level and beyond.  During this session, Dr. McKay encouraged participants to shift their mindset for 2021 and beyond.  She believes that cultivating a mindset of hope, optimism, and gratitude will allow people to better lead and live during this uncertain time. To learn more from Robyn, follow her on LinkedIn at 

Membership Committee:

No Ohms Barred - A Comedy Fundraiser for Future Engineers: 

The membership committee hosted an experimental night of laughs with our first ever standup comedy night on Zoom and some old-fashioned fundraising with 100% of proceeds and then some going towards the SWE Central Illinois scholarship fund.
The event featured a lineup of young diverse West Coast comedians featured at upright citizens brigade, laugh factory, and they did this event for our section completely gratis. Thanks to everyone who attended this event. Thanks to the generous comedians. Thanks to Mary Isaac (SWE MAL), who has time and again donated her zoom account for SWE Central Illinois events.
We raised over $1875 including employer matches at this event.


Outreach Snap Poll

After the bootcamp event last month, SWE membership committee sent a poll to mentors on what keeps them coming back to volunteer at outreach events.
Here are the responses-

Thanks for making SWE outreach impactful.

Outreach Committee:

Data All Around Us: 

In April, as part of the Spark Camp virtual sessions with the University of Illinois extension office, SWE CI hosted a new type of session to learn about data science and role of a data scientist. Laura Bertsch, Ann Peedikayil and Fiona O’Laughlin created a course called ‘The Data All Around Us.’ Campers were given kits containing a pedometer, collection notebook, and a stamped blank postcard. Before the session, the campers captured their data – number of steps per day, rate your day, and notes for activities and comments. During the session, we used Google sheets to perform statistical analysis. We also brought in an additional data source - weather. As part of the experience and with a focus on descriptive analytics, campers designed a post card to mail to another camper. 


SWE Congressional 

On April 14th and 15th, SWE-CI Advocacy members participated in SWE Congressional Virtual to discuss policies that support gender diversity in engineering. Our Illinois contingency had a chance to meet with representatives from the office of Senator Durbin, Senator Duckworth, and Congressman LaHood (pictures below) to ask for their support. At the society level, SWE had given us some talking points. Since there were so many of us, we were able to do some research ahead of time and were empowered to share our personal stories on why certain policies were important to us. Our group covered policies that support an inclusive environment for women and underrepresented minorities in STEM, and policies that promote and further STEM education.

The SWE-CI Advocacy Committee would like to carry this momentum forward and is working on a strategy to inform and educate our members on upcoming policies. Please contact the SWE-CI Advocacy Committee if you are interested in learning more.


Upcoming Events

Work Life Integration Committee
Yoga and Wine Tasting Event:

On Sunday, June 6th from 4-6:30pm we will be hosting a Yoga and Wine Tasting Event at Kickapoo Winery. Yoga will be provided from Soulside Healing Arts from 4-5pm then followed by wine tasting in the Kickapoo Winery Tasting Room.  This event is open to both members and the general public.

Date: Sunday, June 6th
Time: 4-6:30 PM
Where: Kickapoo Winery
Member - $15
General Public - $20
Sign Up: Please RSVP by going HERE and reserving your spot by June 1st.

Any questions please contact Heather Ulrich at


Picture a scientist - screening

SWE Central Illinois and SME Central Illinois chapter are partnering to create a unique opportunity for their members to watch the movie Picture a Scientist for free. Please sign up using your email address.

Sign up form-

Once you sign up using the form above, we will share two opportunities with you to watch the documentary. We will have a group watch party on June 11th between 5 pm to 6:30 pm with a 15 minute discussion after. We will also share the streaming link with folks who sign up using this form and they can watch the movie any time between June 11th and June 13th.

SYNOPSIS of the movie
PICTURE A SCIENTIST chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries - including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists - who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all.

4G STEM Camp

Women leaders in Peoria's manufacturing, technology, and education sectors are working together to coordinate the sixth 4G (Girl + Games + Gadgets = Genius) STEM Camp.
Partners include University of Illinois Extension Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell UnitBradley University Center for STEM EducationSocial of Women Engineers – Central Illinois, and Caterpillar.
The camp is typically designed around site visits to Peoria area businesses and this year those visits will be virtual!  Learn about personal protective equipment (PPE) from Society of Women Engineers while building a birdhouse and learning about careers at Caterpillar, explore labs at Illinois State University while learning about Pennycress and cover crops research, explore biology careers with Bradley faculty in doing lab activities, as well as dissection, and explore JUMP Simulation and the Peoria Riverfront through landscape architecture and sculpture walk activities. Please see details below if you know girls interested in attending.
Signup genius link for 4G STEM volunteer June 28 for virtual career panel discussion led by Nicole Warnstedt and/or building birdhouses 
 Facebook event
  • Social Media images attached
  • News release
  • Short summary that can be used for newsletters, eblasts, etc.
  • For girls entering 6th, 7th, and 8th grades
  • 5 Sessions and one addition video learning opportunity (Each virtual session includes a kit of hands-on materials)
    • Monday, June 14, 1-4 p.m., Peoria Riverfront (outside and socially distanced) learning about the landscape architecture projects along the riverfront and going through the sculpture walk
    • Wednesday, June 16, 1-3 p.m., virtual with Bradley University doing hands-on lab experiments
    • Monday, June 21, 1-3 p.m., virtual with Matthew Hagaman from ISU making ink from Pennycress
    • Wednesday, June 23, 1-3 p.m., virtual with Bradley faculty doing dissection
    • Monday, June 28, 1-3 p.m., virtual with Society of Women Engineers building birdhouses and boxes
    • An additional video session is included with a hands-on biomedical activity from JUMP Simulation Center
  • Fee $50 (fee waivers available)

SWE-CI Scholarship Donation Help

In 2011, the SWE-CI scholarship endowment began awarding $1000 to one female engineering student each year. Since then, the investment has grown to allow for an award stipend of $1750. To help combat the rising costs of education, SWE-CI has set a goal to grow the endowment at least $10,000 to further increase the award amount. Each member of SWE-CI should be receiving a letter in the mail with information and instructions on how to donate to this worthy cause.  Please consider donating today!



To register or learn more, click on webinar below:

Donate to SWE!

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Tip: Import SWE-CI's Google Calendar -- no typing needed!

Yoga and Wine Tasting Event
Kickapoo Winery
June 6, 4-6:30 PM

Picture a scientist - screening
June 11 to 13

June 14, 1-4 PM
June 16, 1-3 PM
June 21, 1-3 PM
June 23, 1-3 PM
June 28, 1-3 PM
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Central Illinois Professional Section. All rights reserved.
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 96, Mossville, IL 61552

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