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A Note from the President
By Fiona O'Laughlin  

'In a distraction-laden world, with activity-driven days and task-oriented lives … reflection can be the mantra to refocus our minds on what matters the most.' ~ Jayshree Seth from The Heart of Science: Engineering Fine Print.

This month, the awards committee is diligently compiling and summarizing our year of activities to submit our SWE Central Illinois packet for the awards presented during the SWE Conference in Houston, Texas. As a member of the awards committee, I am in awe by what we accomplished this year as a professional section. As I reflect on this year, a few highlights come to mind: an inspiring evening with the 30th Anniversary Celebration of SWE in Central Illinois; Engineering Day at the Riverfront Museum returning to in-person with over 1000 people in attendance; and the excitement around bringing back our favorite traditions of the picnic and member brunch as well as introducing new events such as our first advocacy speaker and Galentine's Day celebration. The Work Life Integration committee hosted eight events ranging from a nature hike to painting; the Advocacy committee met with our local elected officials to serve as resources for initiatives to support women in STEM; the Awards committee broadened its focus to nominate SWE members for awards beyond SWE, such as 40 Leaders under Forty; the Outreach committee organized continuous engagements such as the Dream Center Peoria science club, GEMS, and Tri-County Urban League Girls Who Code, as well as larger one-time per year events such as the 4G STEM Camp and Introduce a Girl to STEM (IGSTEM); the Professional Development committee focused efforts on recognizing members through an awards dinner and a technical tour; and the Membership committee met with HR departments of companies in Central Illinois to promote the benefits of SWE membership for employees. Our area representatives held many wonderful in-person events to facilitate connections between our Decatur, Bloomington, and Champaign members from a head shot happy hour to yoga. Our university liaisons worked with SWE Bradley and SWE Illinois to support the collegiate sections and host celebration dinners for the graduates. The Communications, Nominations, and Finance committees are foundational and vital to our success as a section and do their work seamlessly and professionally. 

I would like to wholeheartedly thank our SWE Central Illinois leaders and committee members for making this year so impactful. I've enjoyed working alongside you and even more getting to know you. I've always had the mantra that many hands make light work. Your collaborative approach to working across committees and thinking differently allowed us to navigate another challenging year and offer events to support our members and advance the mission of SWE. This year took creativity and resourcefulness to keep the momentum of diverse events offered for our members going.

Thank YOU to our Central Illinois members for joining us over the year by attending one or many events. From volunteering for outreach activities, bringing your family to an event, engaging and welcoming newer members, supporting women in STEM through mentoring, donating to the 30th anniversary celebration to fund our speaker and our endowed scholarship fund, sharing your enthusiasm for SWE and living into SWE's values every day, our members are our purpose, inspiration, and strengthen our section. 

As our fiscal year 2022 comes to a close, I decided during the month of May to read the newly released, SWE published book - The Heart of Science: Engineering Fine Print. This is the book that Karen Horting, Executive Director and CEO of the Society of Women Engineers, mentioned during our 30th Anniversary celebration. What I have gleaned from this book is that our section is healthy, vibrant and aligned with the SWE mission. The book mentions Picture a Scientist, a documentary that SWE CI offered last year as a streaming experience; the need to be agile and flexible and offer a hybrid of in-person and virtual events; intersectionality lens and addressing our biases that we learned about through the 5 module DEI small group discussions; and the need to focus on our well-being through MODES (Mindfulness, Outdoors, Diet, Exercise, Sleep) and SWE CI offered hikes, meditation/breathing/yoga as well as session to prevent burnout with Dr McKay. Additionally, the proceeds from this book support an endowed scholarship fund and our section has focused on raising over $16,000 to increase our SWE Central Illinois endowed scholarship over the last 2 years! We are an active and generous professional section that contributes to our Central Illinois community.

Finally, I would like to congratulate our new leadership team for fiscal year 2023, both elected and appointed. I'm excited to see how SWE Central Illinois evolves and grows under such capable and professional leaders and I am honored to continue to be part of this journey. It's been my joy and my pleasure to serve as your president. Thank you for this wonderful and cherished opportunity.

Yours through SWE,

Committee Updates

Membership Committee

Renew FY23 Membership:

Renew your SWE membership for the FY23 year (7/1/2022 – 6/30/2023). All members must use their SWE member credentials to log in and register.
If you would like to ask your manager for membership support check-out this site -


Finance Committee

SWE-CI Endowed Scholarship Fund:

The close of FY22 wraps up another successful year for the SWE-CI endowed scholarship.  Last year, the chapter raised $10,000 that allowed the scholarship payout to increase from a $1700 to a $2200 award.  This year, the chapter raised an additional $6400.  Approximately $4600 came from personal donations with company matches, and the remaining $1800 was excess funds received for the 30th Anniversary celebration that took place this past March.  Included in the $1800 was $400 raised through the 30th Anniversary raffle baskets that featured handmade goodies from our local SWE members.  This year’s funds have been mailed to the endowment as of June 17th to increase the payout for FY23, beginning July 1st.  Thank you again to all our wonderful members who give so generously! 

SWE-CI FY23 Exec Team

We are pleased to announce the leadership team for the fiscal year 2022/2023. The new leadership team will meet in July to go over their vision and goals for the coming year, and we will continue to build programming and events to support our members. If you are interested in being a committee member, please reach out to us. We are always looking for new faces to help build our leadership pipeline. 
Elected Members
President – Thuong Le
President Elect – Christy Lee
Treasurer – Lauren Duvall
Secretary – Kara Kessling

May Events

Professional Development Committee:
Prevention & Creative Ways to Beat Burnout with Dr. Robyn McKay

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Professional Development committee hosted a Facebook Live discussion with Dr. Robyn McKay on May 25.  We talked about creative ways to prevent burnout and how to recognize when you may be close to burning out.  Dr. Robyn shared how burnout can manifest in different ways depending on your personal leadership style and emphasized the importance of knowing yourself to recognize when you’re starting to feel “off” to catch the onset of burnout before it becomes severe.  She also noted that flow is the antithesis of burnout, so finding activities and situations where you are in flow is a powerful way to guard against burnout.

If you were unable to attend the Facebook Live session, the recording is available on the SWE – Central Illinois Facebook page:

Work Life Integration Committee:

Membership Hike: 

On April 22 around 20 people, including SWE members and their families, went for a 1.5 mile hike on the Robinson Park north trail in Mossville. It was a beautiful day to be outside and enjoy each other’s company.


Membership Brunch: 

Thanks to the WLI Committee for putting together a great event.  During the event Holly Teig was presented with her Pillar of Support Award. Special thanks to Aisling Hinderliter for hosting this event at her home.


Decatur Area:

Decatur Professional Headshot Session:

On May 9th, the Decatur Area Reps organized a professional headshot session with a local photographer. The group enjoyed the opportunity to get a discounted professional headshot to be used both internally at Caterpillar and externally.

SWE Exec:

Last SWE-CI Exec Meeting of FY22:

On Tuesday May 24th, some of the SWE-CI Exec team met at Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro in Peoria. This event was the last exec meeting for the FY22 team, and they will begin transitioning roles for FY23. SWE-CI team is looking forward to another great year! Thanks Laura Ruiz-Santamaria for organizing this dinner & meeting. 



Good-bye to Gina Guo, Advocacy Co-Chair:

Congratulations to Gina Guo, our current SWE Central Illinois Advocacy Co-Chair on her new assignment as Caterpillar Sales Representative for Global Construction Industries. Sadly for us, she’s leaving the Central Illinois area and our professional section as she and her family just moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Gina plans to stay engaged with her many friends she made through SWE CI. Gina is a wonderful and dedicated member of SWE Central Illinois Executive Board since 2019. She was co-chair of the Professional Development Committee for 2-years and most recently served as Advocacy co-chair. Gina helped bring in our very first advocacy speaker, Jaz Park, an Illinois-licensed employment lawyer and diversity & inclusion consultant in February of 2022. We will miss Gina’s graciousness, kindness and work ethic. Gina often juggled multiple tasks at the same time during PD events and willing served as our unofficial photographer. She is an advocate for SWE and her leadership will be missed. Good-bye and good luck Gina and family!

Upcoming Events

More details to come on upcoming events. 
Outreach Committee

STEM Program:
When: June 23 & 30 
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: Brimfield Library

Morton GEMS:
When: Tuesday, June 21
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: Morton Public Library

4G STEM Camp:
When: Wednesday, June 22
Time: TBD
Location: Caterpillar Tech Center

Materials Engineering Camp:
Know any high school students interested in Chemistry, Science, Engineering? The Peoria ASM Chapter has openings in their free summer camp.  
When: July 25 - 28
Time: Meet at 8 AM - 4 PM
See flyer in weekly email for additional details 

Work Life Integration Committee

Innovative Mindset & Patent Award Recipients Recognition:
Let’s virtually celebrate and learn from Adrienne Brasche, Josenia Gerdes, Thuong Le, Snigdha Pande, and Deepashri Phatak, as the SWE Central Illinois Patent Award Winners who were recognized on the national stage of the WE2021 Conference. These women are driving innovation! We’ll hear about them and learn about their patents. Yanchai Zhang, previous Patent Award Winner from WE2020 Conference, recognized for contributing to 30+ patents will be our keynote speaker for the evening and will share her knowledge and tips on cultivating her innovative mindset through patents and the patent process.  
When: Monday, June 27th
Time: 4 - 5 PM
Where: On Teams 
Click here to join the meeting

WE22 Conference

Conference is October 20-22 in Houston, TX
Early bird pricing now through 9/30/2022 is $475 for professional members. Conference registration just opened on 5/16/2022. Michele Sullivan will be the keynote speaker at the closing celebration. 


Registration Information - WE22 (

Peoria 40 Leaders Under Forty Nominations

Please consider nominating someone who you admire as an emerging leader for the annual 40 Leaders Under Forty. Nominations are to be submitted to Peoria Magazines office by August 31, 2022. Nominees must be 39 years of age or younger as of December 31, 2022, and live and work within the 9 counties* around the Peoria area. To learn more and download the nomination form, please go to Peoria Magazine’s website.
*Note: The 9 counties include Fulton, Knox, Logan, Marshall, Mason, Peoria, Stark, Tazewell, and Woodford.


Membership Spotlight - Cheryl Verbeke

Cheryl Verbeke is an Engineering Manager in the ECM Hardware at Caterpillar Inc.
Tell us a little about your position:
I lead the team that is accountable for the Electronic Control Modules that run Caterpillar engines, machines, and other electronic systems. One of the new spaces is battery management controls.

What attracted you to a STEM Career?
I was fortunate to grow up in a family of engineers including my Dad, an uncle and an aunt. I remember a 4th grade field trip to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. It really sparked an interest in space and space travel. This led to engineering as a way to be an astronaut. I even went to Space Camp in High School. However, during college I did several internships at Motorola and got interested in electronics that has led to my role at Caterpillar today.

Who is your inspiration?
One inspiration would be my high school guidance counselor but not how you might think. This counselor told me I would not be able to get a degree in engineering and was pushing me to look at other degrees. I was too stubborn to let this deter me and helped motivate me during challenging times during college. Today my inspiration comes from recruiting the next generation of engineers for Team Caterpillar as well as coaching and mentoring others.

Why did you decide to join SWE?
I joined SWE in college as a way to meet other women in college as well as get involved in leadership as secretary of the Ohio State section. When I joined Caterpillar almost 25 years ago, I renewed my involvement in SWE and SWE-CI. Over the years this has given me the opportunity to participate in the Professional Development, Advocacy, and Membership Committees, volunteering at various outreach events, and judging SWE scholarship awards. I've enjoyed participating in many different SWE-CI events but I think the best part of SWE-CI are the lifelong friends that I've made!

Interesting Facts:
I'm a huge sports fan including the OSU Buckeyes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Chicago Cubs. Love to travel especially visiting US National Parks and scuba diving in the Caribbean. Always try to visit distilleries during our travels as I love to see the different processes from large to small distilleries. Also enjoy spending the summer in the pool with my husband Dan and our 2 corgis, LC & IV.


To register or learn more, click on webinar below:

Career Journey Updates!

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

STEM Program:
June 23 & 30 
4:30 PM
Brimfield Library

Morton GEMS:
Tuesday, June 21
4:30 PM
Morton Public Library

4G STEM Camp:
Wednesday, June 22
Time TBD
Caterpillar Tech Center

Innovation Mindset & Patent Award Recipients Recognition:
Monday, June 27
4 - 5 PM
On Teams Click here to join the meeting

Materials Engineering Camp
July 25 - 28
Time 8 AM - 4 PM
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Mailing Address: P.O. Box 96, Mossville, IL 61552

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