Over the past few years, the percentage of women in engineering at Cal Poly steadily increased. According to the Cal Poly Fact Book for the 2015-2016 school year, the College of Engineering had the highest female-to-male undergraduate enrollment so far, with 22.6% undergraduate women admitted to the College of Engineering. But how do these numbers compare to Cal Poly engineering fifty years ago and what was it like for women in engineering back in 1966?
According to 1965-1966 enrollment records from Cal Poly’s Special Collections and Archives, only 1.21% of all engineering students were female. The overwhelming majority of those women were enrolled in architecture, which was part of the College of Engineering at the time. If architecture is excluded, only 5 of 1,469 (0.34%) engineering students were women.
A June 1967 Mustang Daily article, co-written by student journalists Judy Behrendt and Mary Weigand, titled “Miniskirts ‘n’ Sliderules: Do They Go Together?” explored the world of women in engineering.¹ From student interviews, the article pieced together the struggle that women in engineering majors at Cal Poly experienced. They covered everything from not being taken seriously by their peers, to hostility from one particular unnamed faculty member. While the women were confident about mastering the subject matter, they still felt high pressure to be better and prove their worth. The Society of Women Engineers remarked on this shared experience by saying, “A woman appears to need more patience and endurance in the field because she’s in the limelight and is constantly forced to prove herself.” Though Behrendt and Weigand did not remark on their experiences, they spotlighted two female professors: Marion Tournon Branly, a practicing architect from Paris, France and Barbara Brown, who taught in the Electrical Engineering department.
Fifty years ago, a woman was likely to be discouraged from pursuing a career in engineering because she was expected to fulfill a more domestic role in a family, whether she was married already or not. As the two authors stated, “Many women do not prepare for such a demanding career because they believe they must make a choice between marriage and work. This problem is a social concern — until the changing role of a woman is clearly defined, the choice between marriage and career will continue to be crucial.”
The article also gives a glimpse into expectations about a woman’s appearance and how it affected female engineering students in the 1960s. The authors wrote: “Still another problem is that women engineers have a largely undeserved image. A woman engineer is assumed to be cold, over-intelligent and aggressive. She is pictured by many as a person who trudges around in mannish suits and flat shoes with no interest in beauty, clothing or other traditionally feminine arts.” These women followed their passions and were criticized by their male colleagues for being too feminine and by the rest of their peers for not being feminine enough.
The opposition these students faced at Cal Poly was not a new experience for them. Joana Merrick, an architecture student, told Mustang Daily journalists that she “was not allowed to take a wood shop course in high school because she was a girl.” She later described her inspiration to stay in the architecture field when she helped remodel a home with her family.
Behrendi and Weigand accurately predicted, “Apparently, then, the mini-skirt madams are here to stay in engineering. Anytime men want to measure up to them, they’d better be ready to read a slide rule accurately.” Though the slide rule is a technology of the past, women in engineering will continue to be an integral part of Cal Poly’s future.
In 1976, roughly ten years later, Cal Poly hosted the Women in Engineering conference. Dr. Sandy Hutchins, senior staff engineer at TRW Defense and Space Systems Group and regional coordinator for the Society of Women Engineers, was one of the key speakers at the conference.² While women in engineering were gradually receiving more awareness and acceptance, the College of Engineering still hosted its annual “Miss Engineering Week” contests. One Miss Engineering Week winner, Patty Hesick, a history major, “was picked from a field of 12 attractive coeds [by] a panel of six judges made up of students and faculty members of the school of Engineering.”³
The last mention of Miss Engineering Week was in 1976 (perhaps the Women in Engineering conference made an impact on the Engineering Department?) until 2010 when the Cal Poly Society of Women Engineers revived it, with a twist.4 The new contest was a fashion show open to any woman in engineering. It intended to embrace their femininity, while uniting around a common passion for engineering.
¹ Behrendt, Judy and Mary Wiegand, “Miniskirts ‘n’ Sliderulers: Do They Go Together?,” Poly Viewpoint, June 2, 1967: 2, http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/studentnewspaper/1220/.
² Keevil, Katie, “Engineering: Women Wanted,” Mustang Daily, May 25, 1976: 6, http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/studentnewspaper/2349/.
³ “Miss Engineering winner announced,” Mustang Daily, February 10, 1970: 3, http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/studentnewspaper/1420.
4 “Students to host events for National Engineers Week, Mustang Daily, February 16, 2010: 1, http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=8018&context=studentnewspaper.]]>
Students majoring in history are required to take this course early in their degree progress because it teaches them the fundamentals of what it means to be a historian. Students learn how to properly analyze primary and secondary sources in order to produce accurate, unbiased accounts of history. This course is also critical because it introduces history students to their colleagues and facilitates connections that last for the rest of their lives.
A large portion of HIST 100 relies on the History Department’s relationship with the Special Collections and Archives in the Robert E. Kennedy Library. This course gives students a chance to “Learn by Doing” by allowing them to immerse themselves in the history of the university and local community through hands-on research with rare and unique primary sources found in the archives. Students choose to look through old issues of the school newspapers, yearbooks (yes, Cal Poly once had a yearbook!), president’s letters, annual reports, and course catalogues.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, approximately ninety students were enrolled in HIST 100. Students were challenged to research a topic in Cal Poly history between the World War I and World War II eras. Topics students researched included the history of female students and faculty at Cal Poly and how their male counterparts treated them; student housing and dormitory life during the war years; the militarization of Cal Poly; and the direct effect that war had on course offerings and budget allocations.
The Out of the Box exhibit highlights the research of fourteen students from HIST 100 who contributed new research and improved our general understanding of Cal Poly’s history. On exhibit are the primary sources they used for their research, as well as captions authored by each of the students. Come visit Special Collections and Archives on the fourth floor to explore Cal Poly’s history, out of the archival box!
The exhibit will be up through July 8, 2015. Read more about the exhibit here.]]>
The Nest is Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s first novel. Four siblings — two brothers and two sisters — have grown up with the knowledge that there’s an inheritance in their future. While their father intended it as a supplement rather than a fortune, it grew beyond anyone’s expectations, causing the siblings to use it as a foundation for some shaky financial decisions. When one of the four gets into a crisis that requires the bulk of this fund to bail him out, the other three find themselves in trouble. Here, their father lays out his original intention:
Nobody remembered who started calling their eventual inheritance “The Nest,” but the name stuck. Melody was just sixteen when Leonard Plumb Sr. decided to establish a trust for his children. “Nothing significant,” he would tell them repeatedly, “a modest nest egg, conservatively invested, dispersed in time for you to enjoy but not exploit.” The funds, Leonard Sr. explained, would not be available until Melody, the youngest, turned forty.
Each of the siblings has been hiding their fiscal shenanigans from the others, and from their significant others. When push comes to shove, the bailed-out sibling flees. Mix in a subplot about a missing artifact from the Twin Towers, and two amputees who meet in physical therapy, and you have quite a story. The ending managed (for me) to be satisfyingly happy yet somehow not Hollywood-sappy. And yet I can picture it making a great movie.
I was excited when I heard that Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife) had been chosen to be a part of the Austen Project, where contemporary authors reimagine Jane Austen’s six novels. Sittenfeld reset Pride and Prejudice in modern-day Cincinnati. Messing around with a novel this well-loved could be a disaster, but Eligible succeeds resoundingly, both on its own, and as an homage to the original.
Darcy is a seemingly taciturn neurosurgeon. Kitty and Lydia are CrossFit fanatics, still living at home. Bingley is on a reality tv dating show. But somehow the traits and foibles of the original characters are intact. Liz is a magazine writer, and the only one in the family who seems capable of supporting herself, and– here’s where the family money comes into play — finds herself rushing from her home in New York back to Cincinnati regularly to attempt to get her family back on the right financial track. Among other idiot moves, her parents have opted to skip buying health insurance while deciding that their country club membership is something they just can’t live without. Here, Sittenfeld introduces Bingley, in her updated version of the opening line “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Well before his arrival in Cincinnati, everyone knew that Chip Bingley was looking for a wife. Two years earlier, Chip — graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Medical School, scion of the Pennsylvania Bingleys, who in the twentieth century had made their fortune in plumbing fixtures — had, ostensibly with some reluctance, appeared on the juggernaut reality-television show “Eligible.” Over the course of eight weeks in the fall of 2011, twenty-five single women had lived together in a mansion in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and vied for Chip’s heart…
I loved both of these novels.
Author photos: Sweeney – Lisa Whiteman; Sittenfeld: Josephine Sittenfeld]]>
She meets Paul, a Brooks Brothers clad research scientist at Stanford, raised by hippies, who has his own set of family problems. The unlikely pair fall in love. With the chemistry off the charts, neither can do any wrong in the other’s eyes:
“And you know that thing you do, when telemarketers call and you sort of retch like you’re being strangled and hang up?”
“You like THAT?”
“I love it.” He cleared his throat, looked down at the ground, not so much at the earth but at his footing on it. “I am very much in love with you. Will you marry me?”…
“Oh, Paul. Look, a squirrel’s watching.”
But Paul wouldn’t even turn, as if being watched by a squirrel meant nothing to him…
Her body quickened, like a tree in the wind. Later, she would remember a filament that passed through her, of being glad she had provided him happiness, but not really sure how she felt herself…
The squirrel emitted a screech.
“Is that a yes?” Paul asked.
She managed to say it. Yes…
Behind them the squirrel made a few sharp sounds, as if to say he had significant doubts.
The squirrel turns out to be an important part of the story, and eventually it does matter deeply to Veblen that a squirrel means nothing to Paul, except as a possible subject of the medical trial he’s working on. Along the way, we get a black comedy about the military/pharmaceutical complex, the collision of two very crazy families, and a love story of two misfits. This is a hilarious, touching, and very original book. The characters will stay with me for a long time.
author photo: Linda Ozaki]]>
The program started in fall 2014 after Open Content and Digital Publishing Librarian, Dana Ospina, looked at how other universities adopted similar programs.
According to Ospina supporting students’ academic success is a top priority for Kennedy Library.
“This program helps accomplish that goal.”
Students like Carla Simental, the Affordable Learning Solutions Student Advocate at Kennedy Library like the program because it gives students more options when it comes to accessing textbooks.
Mobility and instant access are another reason why Simental recommends the program to students.
“You can have hundreds of books with you without having to carry them around,” Simental said. “And now students don’t have an excuse for not having a book on the first day of class.”
Some of the e-books even allow for highlighting or annotating within the book, says Simental.
“Our generation is very digital so I’m sure a lot of people will find the resources provided through the textbook match service to be very useful,” said Simental.
But with all these advantages, Simental feels the one students will find most attractive is affordability.
“The best thing about textbook match is the fact that it is free and you’ll be saving a lot of money compared to buying traditional textbooks.” Simental said.
Both Simental and Ospina are working together to add more and more textbooks to the list of provided textbooks in the future so that more students across campus can start utilizing the e-books offered at Kennedy Library.
“We feel fortunate to provide students with this free resource,” Ospina said. “We hope more people will start using this service.”
If you’re interested in browsing the list of available textbooks for spring quarter, visit the textbook match page.
Denbow believes a series of formative experiences led her to writing her book.
As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Denbow changed her major from engineering to philosophy because she felt like she wasn’t being heard by her majority male counterparts.
“In retrospect, this experience in engineering school was part of the origin of my feminist consciousness and thinking about how institutions and cultures devalue people’s experiences and knowledge in a systematic way,” Denbow said.
While taking a philosophy of science course, Denbow had another realization.
“Science isn’t something just for scientists to think about,” Denbow said. “There is a really important role for political scientists, philosophers, historians to think about what scientists do.”
“Governed Through Choice,” centers around the contradictions that can arise when the notion of autonomy as it relates to reproductive law and technology.
Denow believes that “having more choices and more options doesn’t necessarily make us more free or autonomous.”
One way book explores the implications of this notion is through the regulation of sterilization.
“Having this option of sterilization creates the opportunity for experts to impose it on someone against their will and to withhold it from others when they want it,” Denbow said. “I started seeing how this technology could be important in the governance of people.”
For Denbow, it was important to focus on issues in reproduction particularly as they relate to race, class, and sexual orientation. This is known as intersectionality.
“The idea of intersectionality became really crucial to my thinking about feminism,” Denbow said. “We have so many different experiences and aspects to our identities that we can’t really separate them out.”
With intersectionality in mind, the author hopes her book will help catalyze an alternative understanding to reproductive decisions.
“What are the implications for this choice in regards to reproduction, given that we have such a complex social and political structure that can exert pressures on people?” Denbow said.
Listen to the podcast below for more of the conversation between Denbow and Beaton:]]>
This month, we chose to showcase the Design Team, which is responsible for designing graphics, handling web development, and enhancing user experiences across multiple library platforms. Below are some of the perspectives shared with us from the design team members themselves.
What they are currently working on: Enhancing the user interface and user experience for the Kennedy Library website, creating a web standards style guide, and designing a logo for the Cyamus Regional Group.
“We have a lot of say in how a design is going to turn out. We really get to utilize our ideas and our voices always get heard.”
What they are currently working on: The “I Am Cal Poly 2016” exhibit and design for a scholarly e-book that will be used to archive and create scholarly access for the “I Am Cal Poly 2015” exhibit.
“Take advantage of all the creative and smart people around you and push yourself to explore different areas that you wouldn’t get to explore inside a classroom. I’ve experienced working with people outside my major as a student assistant and that’s exactly what winning *Startup Weekend was all about.”
*Chris Taylor recently participated in Startup Weekend San Luis Obispo where his team of entrepreneurs across various departments won the competition for their app, Project Takeout.
What they are currently working on: Designing a card-based trivia game about the library.
“This job is a very flexible design job that allows you to break out of your creative comfort zone.”
What they are currently working on: Improving user experience on the Kennedy Library website.
“This department in particular really accommodates to what we want to do in our careers.”
What they are currently working on: Designing a display for the “Read Across America” event on Dr. Seuss’ birthday and creating graphics for the “Open Locker” cart that allows students to access free e-books, music, and videos via a USB.
“We get to do a lot of collaboration which makes everyone really close to each other on this team. For me, this is truly my dream campus job.”]]>
It starts with a marriage unraveling: Don, a realtor, and his wife Claire, a one-time novelist and now stay-at-home mom, are having problems, emotional, and, as it turns out, financial. Both wander off and start acting out in uncharacteristic ways, mostly at night, with semi-strangers. This being a small town (Grinnell, Iowa), they know the back stories of these strangers. And, also because this is a small town, the people they become involved with are also involved with each other.
But there’s more going on here than bored partners considering infidelity in the heartland. There’s a retired professor with dementia who’s supposed to have written a brilliant novel, and his wife has called their son home to clean out his study and try to find it. There’s an octogenarian who’s ready to die, but has some very specific ideas about where, when, and how. There’s a young woman so undone by the death of her lover that she wants to die too, in hopes of meeting her again. There’s plenty in the way of dark themes, but there’s a lot of humor as well. Here, a young actor attempts to work his magic on a woman he’s just met in a bar:
He leans in, and Jesus Christ, he thinks, I’d like to f^(# her too. The truth is, he knows, this is when he feels most alive: when a woman is about to fall for him. He looks at ABC, a deep kind of gaze he’s mastered in the past year. He thinks it says this: I want to make you happy.
“Are you gonna puke?” ABC asks. “You look like you’re gonna puke. Let’s get some air.”
Yes, the human foibles are on full display here. And there’s even a gun in Act I that goes off in Act III. The combination kept me up till 3:00 on New Years Eve to find out how it would resolve.
author photo: Grinnell College]]>
Established by a presidential proclamation more than 25 years ago, this annual global event held each year on the third week of November, raises awareness about geography and geographic information system (GIS) technology and the important contributions they make in many aspects of society.
“Cal Poly’s Geography Awareness Week gives students the opportunity to see how geographic thinking is used in San Luis Obispo and beyond,” said organizer and Kennedy Library Numeric and Spatial Data Specialist, Russ White.
According to White, National Geographic created Geography Awareness Week to excite people about geography and GIS as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life. National Geographic estimates that more than 100,000 Americans actively participate in Geography Awareness Week every year.
“Through events and workshops and Cal Poly’s access to GIS resources throughout the year, we can encourage people to be more geographically minded global citizens,” White added.
This year, Kennedy Library hosted its first humanitarian mapathon in an effort to support the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and their goals to map the most vulnerable areas in the world. After a brief training session, the volunteers at this event went to work mapping parts of the developing world using the free and open source Open Street Map (OSM) software.
“I originally heard of the mapathon as an extra credit opportunity for my GIS class. I didn’t know what we would be doing exactly until I got there and I’m glad it ended up being a really fun and interesting event,” said Maddie Smit (ENVM ‘17). “It was nice to be able to see the work others had already done on this Open Street Map project and how I was directly contributing to their efforts.”
In addition to the mapathon, during this year’s Geography Awareness Week, Kennedy Library hosted a GIS map gallery, which featured maps from students and faculty who use geography and GIS in a variety of disciplines. These map prints represented various subjects, themes, and styles to demonstrate the different applications of GIS and spatial analysis in areas of Engineering, Biology, Natural Resources, History, Landscape Architecture and others.
“I think geography is important because it is an overarching discipline,” said Matt Dinwiddie (FNR ‘16), who worked on one of the maps featured in the gallery. “Almost every major at Cal Poly uses geography but they probably don’t realize it and the impact it has.”]]>
Aaron Englund, the main character in After the Parade, has escaped his family, at least in the sense of removing himself physically from them — although his mother abandoned him before he had a chance to grow up and leave. Naturally, this has left some deep scars, though he manages to remain an open-hearted person. He’s formed a relationship with an older man that, while not entirely satisfying to him, has been stable for twenty years. Ultimately, though, he decides that he needs to get away, start over, and finally deal with the emotional fallout of his broken childhood. Through an acquaintance, he gets a job as an ESL teacher at a barely functional school for adult immigrants in San Francisco. He rents a garage apartment — closer to a garage than an apartment — from a married couple whose arguments become the soundtrack to his home life. Here, he takes one last walk around the neighborhood where he lives with his soon-to-be ex-boyfriend:
He passed the house of the old woman who, on many nights, though not this one, watched for him from her kitchen window and then hurried out with a jar that she could not open. She called him by his first name and he called her Mrs. Trujillo, since she was surely twice his age, and as he twisted the lid off a jar of honey or instant coffee, they engaged in pleasantries, establishing that they were both fine, that they had enjoyed peaceful, ordinary days, saying the sorts of things that Aaron had grown up in his mother’s café hearing people say to one another. As a boy, he had dreaded such talk, for he had been shy and no good at it, but as he grew older, he had come to appreciate these small nods at civility.
Aaron meets a variety of unlikely characters on his way to becoming his own person: an overweight baker, a sardonic private investigator, a man with tusks. I found his story involving and his character memorable.
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is about a very different family, the nucleus of which is much more tightly connected. The Eapens are Indian Americans: Thomas, the father, is a brain surgeon who may or may not have chosen the only possible medical specialty which requires him to leave India — and his extended family — to practice. His wife, Kamala, still has one foot in her life in India, though she’s so poorly treated by her in-laws that it’s hard to imagine why she’d want to be anywhere near them. Their two children, Amina and Akhil, have their struggles with 1970s New Mexico growing up, but are more American than Indian. There’s enough disaster, heartbreak, and medical misfortune (brain tumor, narcolepsy, depression) in this story to supply several novels, but because of the uniquely well-drawn characters and touches of humor, it avoids melodrama.The story shifts between 1970s India, 1980s suburban New Mexico, and Seattle during the dot.com boom, and features a chosen extended family of Indian Americans who live near the Eapans. Here, Chacko Kurian, who functions as an uncle, passes judgement on Amina:
“Too old for marrying anyway — why worry about it now?”
“Chackoji, don’t start,” Sanji warned.
“What start? It’s not a conversation, just the plain truth.”
Delivered at least twelve times in every get-together, Chacko Kurian’s plain truths could have stamped the joy out of any festivity if anyone were to take him seriously. Springing from lost dreams (to pioneer heart surgery with a fleet of like-minded sons) and found realities (a daughter who was as uninterested in his line of work as she was in trying to make him happy), his edicts were always promptly dismessed by the others, giving him the air of a king ruling the wrong kingdom.
I’d love to see Mira Nair adapt Sleepwalker’s Guide as a film, but in the meantime, I loved both of these books, and was sorry to see them end.
Ostlund: Franchon Smith, The Chronicle
Jacob: Bloomsbury India