When Jasmine Shaw looks at the faces in Parliament, she wonders where all the engineers are. Despite the myth that they’re “weird and shy,” the 22-year-old biomedical and mechanical engineering grad believes experts in her field have a critical role to play as public leaders—particularly women.
“It’s really important, especially as a female and an engineer, to bring people with the way we think to the forefront of policy-making,” says Shaw, who has encouraged girls to study engineering throughout her degree.
It’s just one of many things on a laundry list of community contributions that has earned her this year’s Board of Governors Award for Outstanding Community Achievement at June Convocation.
“It’s important to have women in this field,” Shaw says. “We’re just as smart as men, we can do just as much, and we can accomplish just as much if we put our minds to it.”
Just take Shaw as an example.
Besides representing engineering students at EngFrosh, Carleton’s Senate and the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), Shaw has been a leader in improving mental health and student services as 2015-’16 president of the Carleton Student Engineering Society (CSES).
Through February Feel Good Week, a CSES initiative Shaw founded that is now in its third year, she’s helped engineering students destress during mid-term exams with activities like yoga, a speaker series and mental health resources.
“There were times when I was stressed out like everyone else and didn’t really know what to do,” Shaw says of the pressures of studying engineering. “If fellow students are telling you that it’s okay to get help, then it’s encouraging.”
She also required the society’s executive team to undergo mental health training this year to help them understand how to deal with a crisis.
The Centroid, a new office for student engineering groups that Shaw worked toward during her four years in the CSES centralizes student engineering resources and is a good step, she says.
“If you want to get involved in anything, that’s going to be the place to be.
Not only has getting involved in student activities and academic government opened the door to other opportunities, but Shaw says it’s shaped her outlook on life.
“I didn’t do anything in high school. I wasn’t involved in anything at all,” she says. “Coming to university, I decided I really wanted to change that and make the most out of my four years.”
She wants high school students—girls in particular—to know it’s okay to follow their interests, even if it’s something that might seem “nerdy,” like engineering.
That’s why she helped create the Student Ambassador Program, which sends soon-to-be engineering grads to local high schools to talk about the benefits of pursuing an engineering degree.
“I’m from Ottawa and I never had anyone from engineering come (to my high school) and say: ‘This is what engineering actually is, this is why you should come to Carleton and why it’s so awesome.’”
She knows the advice helps. One of the high school girls she mentored through Carleton’s Engineering Mentorship Program has now gone on to pursue an engineering degree.
“If I can help them make that choice, then that’s really special.”