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Women in Engineering Summer Program in Austria – Almost a year to the day, Cynthia Rogers and I found ourselves back, once again, at the Summer Academy for Women in Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences, Upper Austria, Wels Campus.  After an overnight flight, several train connections and paid fares, I was back in familiar territory in this beautiful university town.  Wels, Austria, is a small city centered on the university community there. 

Our kind hosts at the International Office, Kamilla Trubicki and Angela Ahgow-Puhringer, greeted us on our first day on campus and made sure we had everything we needed to have a successful session.  We spend Thursday on Campus getting ready.   On Friday, our session began first thing in the morning with our 31 international students from 12 countries.  We spent the initial portion of the session introducing ourselves and learning a bit about the students.  Cynthia and I make a point of highlighting things about ourselves that you might not associate with female engineers.  Our hope was that the women in the group see that not all engineers have the same skills, interests or expertise – that they can be many different things and still be great engineers.  The point proved itself when the students themselves introduced each other – their interests, talents and proved how diverse female engineers are and can be.  We heard from guitarists, painters, pole-vaulters, saxophonists, basketball players, farmers, and many other inspiring participants. 

Our session was about sustainability and the role that these future students can play to influence sustainability in their designs, processes and communities of the future.   Cynthia and I try to work as a conduit to pass along the passion for sustainability rather than claim to be experts.    One of the things that I think I’ve have learned since we became involved in this international opportunity was how much more important passion is in engaging students than technical expertise.  With the diverse backgrounds and experience of the students we see in this school, it is not expertise that will motivate the students, I believe it is passion.  I hope the students left the session with the desire to effect sustainability in the world through engineering.

It was great to work with Cynthia again.  We had a lot to catch up on, as I have been on a learning leave this past year.  Working with Cynthia is a real treat for me.  She works hard, is flexible in her teaching and always reminds me to be authentic.  It was also terrific to see our four NSCC students representing us as students in the class.   All four participated, spoke confidently and engaged with their fellow students openly and supportively.  I think these two weeks with international compatriots is something that these students will learn so much from and really show them how ready for the world they are!

We also had the opportunity to meet a new friend from Thailand, Temsiri Sapsaman, also teaching at the summer school and spending the entire two weeks participating in the sessions.  She joined our session on sustainability.  Afterwards, we had a chance to have lunch with her and learn a little bit about travelling, living and working in Bangkok.  We invited her to visit Halifax and NSCC someday.  I hope she takes us up on that!

I added a few days on at the end of travels to visit a dear friend living with her family in Delft, Netherlands.  On Saturday, I travelled from Nuremberg to Delft and spent Sunday cycling along the canals running from Delft to Den Hague to Leidschendam.  What a glorious way to end an amazing week.  As I fly back to Halifax today, I am thankful for this opportunity to grow, learn and expand my world.  

Susan Campbell

Industrial Engineering Technology Faculty

NSCC Waterfront Campus

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