Convocation at Penn State is the first and last time a freshman class gets to be in the same room as every single person in their grade. Wearing their colored T-shirts for their respective colleges, they are named one-by-one to honor each school within Penn State.
While some schools like IST or Nursing have fewer people, the BJC floods with the color orange when the College of Engineering is announced. An extremely hard school to be in, students come from all over the globe to attend one of the best engineering schools in America.
Being an engineer requires intelligence and determination, but for women, it also requires perseverance and breaking stereotypes. According to an article written for Harvard Business Review, only 13% of the engineering workforce is made up of women. Madison Hungerford is one of the many women pursuing engineering degrees to get rid of this idea of a male-dominated career.
Hungerford is from sunny Clearwater, Florida and has always loved math and science. She is also a rising sophomore with an intended major in Aerospace Engineering. VALLEY sat down to speak with Hungerford about her struggles and life as a woman in engineering.
V: What made you choose to major in engineering?
MH: “I have always been interested in math and science. I’ve also been really good at it — like in high school, I was in the higher maths and sciences always. My dad worked with Joaquin Martin and I got to see all the stuff they did. Seeing the engineers and projects made me interested in Aerospace Engineering, specifically.”
V: Do you see engineering careers as male-dominated fields?
MH: “Yes. Come to one of my classes.”
V: How has being in a male-dominated major affected your classroom life?
MH: “You end up working with more guys most of the time. My professors have tried to make it 50/50 with us girls, but it’s just not realistic. It’s harder to find people to relate to in my classes. Although they have programs for women in engineering, it doesn’t change that there are far more men in this field.”
V: Have you endured any hardships being a woman in your specific major or in your classes?
MH: “I think me as a person — not just being a girl — I am really outgoing and smiley. So I think people take me less seriously when they see me. I just in general work with some rude people. But yes, they take me less seriously. Personally, I believe it’s hard to be a girl anywhere, but specifically, in math and sciences, it’s hard to get the same respect. Like I really witnessed this at the career fair and in groups during class.
V: How do you overcome the obstacles of engineering itself since it is such a difficult major?
MH: “Tutoring, getting help from friends, spending a lot more time than you should have to in the library and talking to professors. Oh — and definitely LionTutors.”
V: Walk us through a day in the life in the eyes of a woman in engineering.
MH: “On my busy days, my first class was MATH 220 at 9:05 a.m., and immediately after that, I run to my 10:10 a.m. for EDesign. That class went until noon, then at 12:20 p.m., I had MATH 250. Luckily, I had a break from 1:10 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., I had CHEM 110. Then, I go from Chem to the library or to the dorms to meet with my friend to go to the library. I stay there pretty late, and just go to bed pretty late too.”
“I do a lot of homework during the week, if I had to put a number to it, I’d say more than 25 hours a week. The weekends are when I get my freedom. I definitely get less time to be social because I have so much to do all the time. It’s hard to say no, but you have to. I do get to go out and see my friends, but I for sure have less time to do stuff.”
V: Any advice for those in a male-dominated major or are scared to pursue a major that is mostly men?
MH: “I’d say they want to diversify the field so don’t be afraid of going into that field. You will get a lot more support and help because they want more women in engineering. You will have more programs and people that want to help you. I know they have seminars to help you. I don’t know … survive in a male-dominated field. Just do it, YOLO.”