Networking takes a new approach with SWE Fireside Chat


By: Julie Stern

James Madison University engineers on April 15 had a unique on-campus networking opportunity with aerospace and defense technology company, Northrop Grumman, at the JMU Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Dinner with Industry: Fireside Chat.

“This is one of the events that makes the biggest impact on the engineering department,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Nagel, engineering assistant professor and SWE faculty advisor.

SWE hosted the event, sponsored by Northrop Grumman, which included a dinner and an interview with alumna Kathy Warden, Corporate Vice President and President of Northrop Grumman Information Systems.

“The goal of this event was for JMU Engineering students to network one-on-one with professionals, learn more about internship and full time employment opportunities, and hear Kathy Warden speak about her personal experiences and her success,” said SWE president, Genevieve D’Antonio.

D’Antonio conducted the interview with Warden and planned the Fireside Chat with the help of SWE members and a Northrop Grumman representative. This was the first time SWE took a fireside chat approach to a presentation.

“The advantage of the fireside chat approach was that students could hear advice from someone who is well-respected in engineering community,” said Dr. Nagel. “It made Kathy approachable.”

Forty students and seven Northrop Grumman representatives attended the event. Several students went up to Warden after the interview to continue a more personal conversation with her.

Engineering students also had the chance to hear advice from company representatives and learn about their experiences entering the professional industry.

“It was very motivating and helpful to hear their personal stories because right now I just graduated and am transitioning into the ‘real world,’” said D’Antonio. “I am very excited, but it is also a big change, so any helpful advice from professionals and mentors is greatly appreciated.”

One company representative sat at each table, thus providing a networking opportunity to every student; some, including a freshman, received internship offers after the event.

“It was amazing to listen to a live interview with Kathy Warden because she shared her experiences, challenges, and success in the engineering field,” said D’Antonio, “which I'm sure all of the engineering students can learn from and apply to their careers.”

Warden challenged students to take risks and complete projects outside their comfort zones. This, she said, allows students to grow professionally and begin to build a network of connections.

According to Dr. Nagel, the event allowed students to learn to grow as a leader and professional, but not solely within the engineering industry. It helped students learn to support each other in a professional manner, and highlighted the importance of being involved in a professional organization. 

“The Fireside Chat speaks to the mission of SWE, which is professional excellence and advocacy,” said Dr. Nagel. “From here on out, it’s only going to get bigger and better!”

Published: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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