Students in URI’s Society of Women Engineers Remain Close from a Distance

SWE painting event
The URI chapter of the Society of Women Engineers held a painting event in February, before the University of Rhode Island switched to remote learning.

By Neil Nachbar

When the University of Rhode Island stopped holding courses on campus due to COVID-19, virtual classrooms replaced physical classrooms. 

But what about the social aspect of college? Time spent outside of the classroom is when many students establish friendships that last a lifetime.

Apparently it takes more than a pandemic to break the bonds of the students in the URI chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. 

URI SWE President Alexandra Buckley
URI Society of Women Engineers President Alexandra Buckley

“It’s been important for us to hold meetings and events virtually in a time of social distancing to ensure that our members feel connected and engaged,” said Alexandra Buckley, president of the society’s URI chapter.

The first meeting of the group after the students returned to their hometowns was held March 26. The agenda was the same had the meeting been on campus, except it was held using Google Zoom.

“We had all of our officers describe their positions in detail to our active members to spark their interest in running for an executive board position next year,” said Buckley, who is a senior chemical engineering major from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. “Once that was concluded and all questions were answered, we moved on to the social part of our meeting.”

For the social portion of the meeting, the group’s social chairperson Jessica McLaughlin hosted a round of the trivia game Kahoot! McLaughlin is a sophomore ocean engineering student from Dix Hills, New York.

“Jessica created a Kahoot quiz that was a combination of questions about our members and questions about the history of the Society of Women Engineers,” said Buckley. “It was lighthearted and a great way to relax in this time of uncertainty. It was also great to catch up with everyone.”

Besides reconnecting with each other, Buckley and the other members felt it was important to reconnect with those who normally do outreach programming throughout the year. Through their SWENext activities, URI chapter members serve as mentors by introducing STEM to girls in middle school and early high school.

“We typically host one event per month, at which 25 to 50 girls from all over Rhode Island participate,” said Buckley. “As a way to stay connected with them, our outreach chairperson Jenna Taormina created an informative newsletter for parents to share with their kids. It consisted of an engineering activity, some fun facts about women in STEM and a general update about SWENext moving forward.”

The URI chapter held its annual elections April 9. Prior to voting, each person running for an executive board position gave a short speech on Google Meet about themselves and why they were running.

The election results were:
President – Jenna Taormina, chemical engineering
Vice President – Jessica McLaughlin, ocean engineering
Treasurer – Kaitlin Neville, industrial and systems engineering
Outreach Chair – Rebecca Meyers, ocean engineering
Secretary – Jojo Speredelozzi, biomedical engineering, Italian IEP
Engineering Representative – Kayla O’Connor, chemical engineering, German IEP
Communications Chair – Alexandra Barbato, chemical engineering
Social Chair – Julia Karlberg, mechanical engineering, Spanish IEP
Historian – Ellie Sullivan, industrial and systems engineering

In the next weeks, the chapter has a Netflix movie viewing party scheduled and they plan on playing some online games together, such as, which is similar to Pictionary, and Club Penguin Rewritten, which consists of several mini video games.