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York College Empowers Women to Make Their Mark in Engineering

Celeste Barber in WISE

Engineering, a field often characterized by its male-dominated landscape, is undergoing a transformative shift as more and more women step into the STEM spotlight. York College of Pennsylvania is helping to lead that revolution.

With a focus on nurturing talent and providing equitable opportunities, York College of Pennsylvania aims to be a beacon of support for women engineers, propelling them toward success in a historically male-dominated field. Four inspiring women engineers, York College alumnae, are creating a better world through science and technology as they use their experiences, challenges, and hands-on education to shape diverse careers.

Small classes, big education

Caryn Sims ’22, a Computer Engineering graduate, found her path to engineering through her father's affinity for information technology. She was drawn to York College for its robust Engineering program, and as soon as she set foot on campus, she felt a sense of belonging.

“I felt I could really learn here, really grow here,” she says.

Sims’ experience at York College was defined by the strong bonds she formed with her professors. This supportive network extended beyond the classroom, with faculty members assisting her in setting up co-op opportunities and providing guidance in her career preparation. Sims’ passion for coding and hands-on work shaped her career aspirations, making her a perfect fit for the software development focus of her job at Teleosoft, where she is a software engineer.

The appeal of small classes and opportunities for engagement with professors held a similar attraction for Maitlin Greiner ’22.  Greiner started as a Mechanical Engineering major but soon realized her true calling lay in the world of civil engineering. She discovered a passion for working on grand-scale projects and solving complex problems.

Having completed high school in Maryland, Greiner sought a college that balanced proximity to home with a strong Engineering program. York College's modest class sizes and a welcoming atmosphere, combined with a burgeoning Civil Engineering program, drew her in. She was a member of the third graduating class in Civil Engineering.

“I had a lot of really good relationships with the faculty,” Greiner says. “They helped me improve my problem-solving skills and provided an invaluable experience that textbooks alone can’t offer. Engineering seems to be broadly known as a rigid and analytical field, but our faculty humanized it to empower us to use the information in a way that benefits the community.”

The co-op difference

The College's small classes and friendly atmosphere instantly won over Becky McCloskey ’20 during a college visit. McCloskey, also a Civil Engineering graduate, works as an assistant project manager at Whiting-Turner, a construction management company. McCloskey's decision to pursue a civil engineering career was influenced by her aptitude for math and her father's career as a mechanical engineer. Like Greiner, McCloskey initially embarked on the mechanical engineering route but soon realized her passion was for civil engineering.

The opportunity to gain real-world experience through the Engineering program’s co-op offerings was a game-changer for McCloskey. Her internships provided valuable insights into her future profession. The hands-on experience she gained during these co-ops, including a project at Walt Disney World, set her up for success and ensured that she was well-prepared for the challenges of the workplace.

“York College is a great school for an Engineering degree,” McCloskey says. “The professors are amazing and always there to help. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. They go over the top to help people who learn in different ways, and the co-ops are so important.”

York College's emphasis on practical experience played a pivotal role is McCloskey’s, Sims’ and Greiner’s development and professional growth. Co-op programs, career fairs, and mock interviews prepared them for the realities of the workplace, helping each discern her preferences and strengths. Their internships and senior capstone projects honed problem-solving skills and collaborative abilities.

Sabrina Vicente ’20 is using her Civil Engineering degree in her role at CS Davidson, a municipal and structural engineering firm. York College’s well-structured program, with internships integrated into the curriculum, attracted Vicente.

A connection outside the classroom

Vicente’s and her counterparts’ experience further was enriched by the close-knit community inside and outside of classes, fostering enduring friendships.

As a woman in the engineering field, Sims found a supportive community in York College's Women in Sciences and Engineering (WISE) club, where she served as president during her senior year. The club organized events that inspired students and educated them about the accomplishments of women in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Greiner’s participation in clubs such as WISE and the Tech Tinker program—which gives YCP students the opportunity to help local school kids explore robotics, technology, and basic engineering skills—connected her with fellow women Engineering majors and exemplified the College’s commitment to promoting diversity in the field.

Beyond the clubs and Tech Tinker, an array of extracurricular activities provided opportunities for a broader education. Greiner was extensively involved on campus. As a Resident Assistant for two years, a Student Ambassador for one, and an Executive Board Member of the Campus Activities Board, she honed her leadership and interpersonal skills.

Once on campus, McCloskey quickly dove into cheerleading, Greek life, and being a Student Ambassador, dedicating herself to academics and the community. She also cofounded the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter and served as its president for four years.

Beyond her major, Vicente participated in extracurricular activities and volunteered with such groups as York Habitat for Humanity, where she forged connections that continue to influence her life. Through it all, York College provided her and her fellow Engineering majors with a supportive environment in which to thrive.

Prepared for career growth

Transitioning into her role as a civil engineer with an engineering firm, HRG, Greiner discovered a passion for municipal engineering and stormwater design. Her job includes designing storm sewer networks, creating construction plans, and offering valuable advice to municipal clients. HRG's diverse portfolio exposed Greiner to a variety of projects across municipalities around Harrisburg and throughout the state. Her experiences at York College instilled a sense of confidence and provided a strong foundation, making her a highly desirable member of the workforce and an inspiration to aspiring engineers, regardless of their gender.

Vicente's second co-op internship took her to CS Davidson, where the family-oriented atmosphere and the challenging projects the company undertakes appealed to her. Her positive experiences and exposure to the firm's work solidified her decision to continue working there after graduation. She is involved in designing buildings, working with materials such as steel and wood, and ensuring compliance with codes and client requirements. She credits her alma mater for providing her with a strong foundation, which helped her excel in her career.

Her advice to women considering an Engineering degree at York College: “Don't be afraid to try it. It's easier to discover that it's not the right fit than to never try at all.”

As an assistant project manager at Whiting-Turner, McCloskey oversees various aspects of construction projects. Her career defies traditional gender roles, and she takes pride in being a role model for younger women in the field. She's part of the group Women of Whiting-Turner, or WOW, and is passionate about encouraging women to pursue engineering careers.

“You do belong here,” she says to fellow women engineers and engineering students. “Don’t let anybody downplay that. Females belong here just as much as males do. I don’t want it to be a foreign concept; I want it to be more normalized that females are in this role.”

Inspiring the next generation

With opportunities to connect with professors, strong student networks and clubs such as WISE, and hands-on learning opportunities, internships, and co-ops, York College supports students on their educational journey. Vicente, Sims, McCloskey, and Greiner are just a few examples of the many women engineers who started down their career paths at York College. They are proud of their role as women in the mostly male field, and each strives in her own way to serve as an inspiration to women considering careers in engineering.

York College's emphasis on co-op experiences, supportive faculty, and a strong sense of community has provided these four women engineers and others like them with the foundation they needed to thrive in a male-dominated field as they continue to break barriers, overcome challenges, and contribute to advancements in technology, construction, and engineering.