Savannah Hays, WVU's 2021 Newman Civic Fellow
Savannah Hays, WVU's 2021 Newman Civic Fellow

WVU student named Newman Civic Fellow to create mentorship opportunities for future female engineers

A first-generation college student who aspires to become a physician-researcher, will use her role as West Virginia University’s 2021 Newman Civic Fellow to undertake a year-long project to increase access to engineering mentorships for young women in West Virginia. Savannah Hays, an Honors biomedical engineering major in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will help form at least two SWENext chapters, the high school equivalent of the Society of Women Engineers, to serve young women ages 13-17.

“I am so passionate about this project because I am from West Virginia and I want to see our state succeed,” Hays said. “Our state and university have the resources for students to excel as engineering students, but I think many young women are steered away from this male-dominant field. With the development of SWENext clubs in West Virginia, I hope to provide participants with mentorship, college preparation, and professional development in engineering.”

Hays grew up in Parkersburg with few female mentors in engineering. It was one of her high school basketball mentors, also a chemical engineer, who led her to consider engineering for the first time. Hays wants to facilitate that spark of interest for others in the region.

Since arriving on campus, Hays has been closely involved with the WVU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. While attending regional and national conferences, she learned about SWENext, and also learned that West Virginia has no chapters. These clubs will provide both engineering and college preparation mentorship to girls in these communities. Hays will be mentored by Cate Johnson, the assistant director of the ASPIRE Office. She will also have support and guidance from the WVU SWE chapter, as well as SWE professional members in the community.

Nationally, only 13 percent of working engineers are women and only 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering fields are awarded to women. SWE and SWENext seek to attract and retain more women to the engineering field. Hays wants to help lead this process in West Virginia.

In addition to her involvement with SWE, Hays is an undergraduate researcher in both the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Neuroscience. Hays is the STEM editor for WVU’s in-house student research publication, the Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review, and she regularly volunteers at both of Morgantown’s local hospitals. In the future, she hopes to earn her M.D. and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering to become a physician-scientist, specifically in the field of neurology.

Campus Compact has named 212 students as Newman Civic Fellows for 2021 with fellows from universities and colleges across the United States and from Mexico.

The Newman Civic Fellowship is a one-year experience emphasizing personal, professional, and civic growth for students who have demonstrated a capacity for leadership and an investment in solving public problems. Through the fellowship, which is named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, Campus Compact provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference of Newman Civic Fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The fellowship also provides fellows with access to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities. The Newman Civic Fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.

Students who are interested in applying for this or other nationally competitive scholarships can email aspire@mail.wvu.edu for an appointment.

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