UMassD students are known for pushing boundaries to create breakthroughs that will lead to bright futures. As a first-year student, Pittsfield, MA native Shannon Kennedy ’23 used her drive to pursue an opportunity geared toward guiding women who aspire to become engineers.
Preparing to break barriers
“Before starting my education, I rented several books on how to succeed and what to expect in the engineering field. I found that several of the books always referred to the reader or rhetorical figure as male,” Shannon said. “To think, not long ago, a woman in this field was not only rare but unheard of. While it is still challenging to go against the grain, I am grateful to grow up in a time that generally encourages women to enter male-dominated fields and to have benefited from the many brave females who have already paved the way.”
Navigating campus life
Now entering her sophomore year, Shannon said being a part of the Women in Engineering Peer Mentoring Program, which is part of a living-learning community for first-year engineering students, helped her make connections with other women in engineering. The program offers high-quality academic and social experiences; promotes achievement, academic engagement, and independence; and empowers students to build strong academic and personal connections with peers, faculty, and professionals.
Partnering with a mentor
The program is led by an engineering resident peer mentor, which Shannon said helped her smoothly transition from high school to college. “My peer mentor, Lexi Lannigan, was always available to help with homework. She also formed study sessions before our important exams, gave us practice problems, and explained topics prior to exams. As a result, I do better in my academics than I would have on my own.”
Connecting with her peers
Shannon also said seeing familiar faces on campus helped her succeed socially. “The Women in Engineering Peer Mentoring Program allowed me to create a bond with other students,” Shannon said. “The bi-weekly activities were competitive and engineering-related and built on critical-thinking skills, rethinking ideas, and coming up with better solutions.” Activities such as making balloon-powered cars, engaging in straw tower contests, and competing in an engineering-themed version of Jeopardy! enabled Shannon to combine her interests in math, science, and engineering with her creative side. “It’s a great way to make friends as you transition from high school to college. You get outside of your residential hall, you have a peer mentor who lives with you, and you meet friends who will most likely be in your classes or the same organizations.”
Choosing bioengineering as a major
Shannon chose bioengineering because she likes dealing directly with helping people. “It excites me that I will one day be working on projects that will improve the quality of or even save someone’s life. I am interested in the satisfaction that will come from knowing that I am positively contributing to the lives of others,” she said. “I am also proud to be a woman going into a male-dominated field. I remind myself I am doing what I love. I have made it this far, and I intend to persevere.”