April 8, 2011

Female LSU engineering students traded in their jeans and sandals for chic dresses, stylish pumps, and appropriate business and casual attire at the first-ever Women Impacting Style in Engineering (WISE) dinner and style show.  

Sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers at LSU (SWE) and the College of Engineering’s Office for Diversity Programs, the event provided students an opportunity to network with industry professionals from ExxonMobil, Dow, Entergy, MMWH Americas, Fluor and Total, as well as learn appropriate styling for various looks, including business professional, business casual and casual networking.

“The fashion event was a really great experience where we got to network with company representatives,” said Libby Ingram, sophomore, petroleum engineering and a Baton Rouge, La. native. “I got to talk with an employee from Total, who worked at a chemical plant, as well as a food processing plant. It was really interesting to hear where our different disciplines can take us.”

Tricia Thibodeaux, an LSU College of Engineering alumna and director of supplier quality at Fluor, a global engineering and construction company, delivered the keynote address.

“For the guys, it’s pretty simple, right?” Thibodeaux joked. “You put on a pair of slacks and a polo [shirt], and you’re good to go. As women, we don’t always want to do that. So, this is a great event to help us dress appropriately for different occasions.”

She stressed the importance of developing soft skills, personal attributes and behaviors that enhance a person’s interpersonal interactions. Learning the appropriate way to dress in the professional world is a key soft skill in self-presentation and first impressions.

“You never know where your career will take you, or who will have an impact on your career. It only takes three seconds for people to formulate an opinion about you, and these first impressions are nearly impossible to change,” said Thibodeaux. “For this reason, it is always important to make a good first impression and dress appropriately for the occasion.”

Teaching female engineering students how to maintain a professional, yet fashionable, wardrobe was SWE’s intent when developing this event. With so many choices among outfits and events that professional women attend, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of pants, skirts, dresses, ruffles, flats and heels.

“This event and others like it build the LSU female engineer’s professional confidence and, ultimately, her future career,” said Sarah Cooley Jones, coordinator, College Engineering Programs, Office for Diversity Programs. “Hopefully, WISE provided visual images for the LSU female engineering student to direct and affirm her professional appearance.”

LSU engineering students modeled eight looks, ranging from knee-length dresses to ruffled blouses, elegant black pants suits and denim jeans for tailgating. After a three-course dinner and the keynote address, the student-models strutted down the center aisle of the Faculty Club, showing off their various looks, which were furnished by Macy’s. Estee Lauder and the Aveda Institute Baton Rouge provided models’ makeup and hair, respectively.

“This event was primarily focused on introducing young women to other professional aspects of engineering that complement the technical skills,” said Del Dugas, a chemical engineer and business planner at ExxonMobil. “As with anything business-related, you need to determine what attire is appropriate for each event. There are items you can wear, which are very tasteful, without losing your sense of style.”

“Young, professional women want to make a good impression but still look cute and fashionable,” said SWE president Olivia Leblanc, junior, chemical engineering and a native of Baton Rouge, La. “We wanted to put on an event to show versatile styles, something for every body type and every style of girl.”

“Attire definitely gives you your image,” said Marlie Ventress, senior, civil engineering and a native of Denham Springs, La. “The first thing interviewers see is the way you dress. That’s their first impression of you. So, you have to look the part.”    

Associate Dean of Research and Diversity Kelly Rusch applauded the event as an excellent opportunity to foster academic-corporate partnerships.

“This evening allows us to instill both the technical know-how into our students and also recognize ways to prepare our students in the best possible way for success as professionals,” said Rusch.


About SWE

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a not-for-profit educational and service organization that empowers women to succeed and advance in the field of engineering, and to be recognized for their life-changing contributions as engineers and leaders. SWE is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career for women through an exciting array of training and development programs, networking opportunities, scholarships, outreach and advocacy activities, and much more. For more information, visit http://www.swe.org

About the Office for Diversity Programs

The CoE’s Office for Diversity Programs facilitates and enhances the College’s efforts to increase participation and graduation rates of women and underrepresented minority students, as well as recruit and retain high quality women and underrepresented minority faculty. For more information, visit http://www.eng.lsu.edu/diversity.

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