WiE Cafe events build community

Posted: November 15, 2019


This article is the second in a series that addresses the subject of women in the engineering profession. Maria Stavridis, CEGE Communications intern, attended the the WIE Cafe event that featured Dr. Lisa Burris, Assistant Professor, CEGE. WIE (Women In Engineering) is an on-campus group of female engineering majors who advocate for the growing diversity in the field.

The Women In Engineering (WiE) Cafe Event was held on October 25, 2019 in Hitchcock Hall, room 410 at 4 pm. The event was frequented by 25 all-female first-year engineering students and was led by guest speaker Dr. Lisa Burris. Dr. Burris is the instructor for this semester’s Engineering 3510 Civil Engineering Materials course. She is currently studying how concrete can be made more sustainable, as it is the third largest Co2 producing industry in the world. Her work focuses on the chemical constructs of the material as well as practical applications. In the meeting, she discussed how she attained success when she was both an undergrad and a graduate student.

“I was really involved in a lot of clubs and student organizations,” Burris said, “I think that’s a really important thing for you to do. Clubs can be a safe place where you have friends in the same interests as you, and it encourages learning even after you complete the classes.”

Prof. Lisa Burris listens to a student
Dr. Burris also talked about how being a woman can make the engineering experience different, and that being a minority in most classes has made her think more critically about how she approaches group projects. When asked if they had ever felt a noticeable difference in treatment between the female and males in their classes, all 25 students raised their hands. Experiences ranged from always being delegated as the ‘writer’ rather than chemist or mathematician in group projects to being given less difficult problems than their male peers.


Although diversity in the field of engineering has made strides in recent years, this discussion showed that there is still a gap in what students experience based on their gender. Dr. Burris shared advice for the students on how to look at these situations.

“I would just say that it’s always important to have friends,” Burris said, “male classmates may be sharing similar academic struggles in their lives, and you can connect and build support networks with all kinds of people that can help you succeed.”

by Maria Stavridis, CEGE Communications Intern

Category: Student