On Being Female at IIT

I never thought that I would study engineering. I can actually remember telling friends in high school that engineering would be the last thing I would major in. Fast forward two years later and here I am, studying mechanical engineering at Illinois Tech.

I also never thought that I would have more than the obvious to say about being female. I never felt that gender made a difference in the friends that I had, the decisions I made, or the decisions other people made about me. I only began to think about gender when I began my engineering degree at IIT.

As you may know, IIT’s student body is roughly 70% male and 30% female. Guys hear this and worry about finding cute girls. Girls hear this and get excited to have their choice of guys. Maybe others think differently when they encounter a skewed gender balance like this, but those thoughts are what first came to my mind.

What I’ve learned as an IIT student is that gender is much more than a biological binary only relevant to your love life. Although gender equality has been legally ensured for over 40 years, women are still dealing with a fading legacy of discrimination. We are not barred from pursuing anything, but we often are not exposed to fields (tech particularly) with fewer women.

Because IIT is a tech school, the women here go against the grain. I know that by the time I get to my last year here, there will be very few girls left in my mechanical classes. I haven’t had any female teachers for major classes. I really hope that the company I work for after graduation has female engineers on the team. As my education and career continue, I am more and more likely to be the only woman in the room. It takes a little extra strength and courage to be the odd (wo)man out, but I’ve never felt alone thus far.

For this, I have IIT to thank. The women who study here are smart, studious, and unafraid of following their passions. There are so many female student leaders on campus. Our SGA president has been female for as long as most can remember. The executive boards of most student organizations have a majority of female members. Our three sororities on campus are very active in Greek Council, the governing body of Greek life at IIT. Our female student athletes kick butt on and off the field. If you meet a girl from IIT, it’s likely that she’s doing big things. It’s easy to make friends with girls here; we’re always excited to talk to new girls and we want you to be our lab partner. We all have school in common, a strong connection that leads to lasting friendships.

One of my favorite organizations on campus is the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). They have bi-weekly meetings to talk about leadership and engineering with other women. It’s a supportive environment, a great place to meet girls with similar interests, and a lot of fun. If you’re a national member, there’s a national conference that you can attend yearly. It’s a great place to network with other female students and women in industry. SWE also posts career opportunities for women in engineering and computer science on their website.

I do think about being female as an IIT student, more than I ever have before. However, as a woman pursuing a career in engineering (a 20% female field), I think that IIT is giving me so much. I am building strong friendships with women I have a lot in common with. I’m finding ways to feel supported by connecting with girls outside of my classes. I see my female classmates scoring amazing jobs and internships in tech and then excelling on the job. I feel focused here and I feel like everyone, staff or student, male or female, wants me to succeed. If anything, being female at IIT is empowering, fun, and a positive experience.


So to anyone who is concerned about the gender ratio at IIT:

Girls—There’s less of us, but you’re making an amazing choice for your future. You will never feel alone here.

Girl-Seekers—There may not be quantity, but there’s definitely quality. How many people can say that their girlfriend is beautiful, sweet… and an engineer? If you’re still worried: It’s Chicago! If you can’t find who you’re looking for somewhere in this city, you may not find her anywhere.


Things That I Didn’t Know About IIT (that everyone should)

1. So many energy projects


Assembling the Wind Turbine by Stuart Field

Seriously, so many. IIT operates three advanced wind turbines for research purposes. There’s a Smart Electric Vehicle Charging Station on campus with nine electric vehicle charging stations. IIT’s Galvin Center and the US Department of Energy developed the first functional smart microgrid in the country through a $13 million partnership—and it’s on our campus. The university also sponsors a ton of research on clean coal technologies and electric vehicles.


IIT’s WISER Facilities

IIT’s commitment to energy is making a huge impact locally and globally. The school just received a $3 million dollar grant from the USDA to implement microgrid technology at the University of the British Virgin Islands. IIT leads a similar project in Korea. The university also works with the City of Chicago to expand the use of solar power in the city.


Check out:




2. Tech Park

You could think of Tech Park as a farm for technology companies. Startup ventures rent state-of-the art labs and office space in IIT buildings. The startups eventually blossom into companies that employ hundreds of people (and they love hiring IIT students and grads). Tech Park currently hosts around two dozen companies and has helped to launch 30 startups since its inception.


One of the many research facilities in Tech Park

Check out:



3. We’re a part of the NCAA Division III


Newly turfed Stuart Field– check out that skyline in the background!

IIT transitioned from the NAIA to NCAA Division III in 2012. The D3 jump has led (and will lead) to a lot of facility improvements and the addition of new sports teams. This year, we added a women’s lacrosse team and updated Stuart Field to turf.


4. Greek Life

Yes, IIT has Greek life! Chapters on campus include Alpha Sigma Alpha, Alpha Sigma Phi, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Phi Delta, Omega Delta, Pi Kappa Phi, Phi Kappa Sigma, Triangle, and Zeta Pi Omega—3 sororities and 6 fraternities. IIT is the only university in Chicago with sorority houses, deftly circumventing a Chicago brothel law preventing too many women from living under one roof. Something especially unique about IIT’s Greek life: all houses surround a big, grassy quad on campus, which creates a special sense of community between the chapters.


A map of the quad, located just south of the MTCC


The brothers of Pi Kappa Phi hanging out on the porch during the first warm day of 2014

Greek Week

Greek Week is one of those great things about IIT that you don’t hear about on a campus tour. During one week at the end of each spring semester, all 10 Greek chapters at IIT compete in daily competitions that test athletic prowess, brainpower, creativity, and teamwork. The diverse line-up of events gives everyone an opportunity to contribute to their chapter’s success.

The community takes Greek Week pretty seriously. Each chapter chooses a theme for the week and dresses up in costume for most of the events. Chapters also make impressive banners of their theme for the front of their houses. Banners are often huge projects that sometimes involve laser cutting, lighting elements, and carpentry. (Would you expect anything else from engineering and architecture students?) The events are scored by faculty and student judges and a winner is determined at the end of the week.


The proximity of the houses makes Greek Week especially fun. Unlike most schools that have Greek rows off campus, all of IIT’s houses surround a big, grassy quad at the heart of campus. Because everyone is so close together, events are highly attended and the festivities often continue after their official end. The quad is alive all week; music is always playing out of huge speakers that houses bring outside. People toss Frisbees and footballs, enjoying the warm weather and company.


Greek Week is kind of like that show “Who’s Line is it Anyways?” Although there’s a winner at the end of the week, the points don’t really matter. The best part of Greek Week is that it’s an excuse to get together. It’s a great time to meet people, celebrate your chapter, be silly, and just have fun.


Spotlight On… TEDxIIT

On Saturday, April 5, the 4th annual TEDxIIT conference was held in the IIT Tower Auditorium. Per usual, the event was extremely successful.


“The IIT community loves TED. This year, over two hundred people wanted a ticket! Unfortunately per TED rules, we are only allowed to have a hundred people in the auditorium itself. If you didn’t get a seat in the auditorium, we encouraged you to join the ‘overflow section’ in the Tower lobby,” said President Isabelle Romero. Isabelle and a huge team of student volunteers put together this year’s TEDxIIT event, aptly titled “Infinite Impact.”


The team definitely prepared for an infinite impact. Planning for this year’s event began right after the 2013 TEDxIIT last spring. Team members were responsible for securing volunteers and sponsors, handling registration, and advertising the event. Most importantly, they had to find the speakers. The team selected each very deliberately, targeting IIT students, alumni, faculty, and community members at the cutting edge of their fields. According to the TEDxIIT website,

“Speakers are from all areas including: Design, Entertainment, Technology, Smart Grid Innovation, Renewable Energy, Diversity, Interdisciplinary/Entrepreneurship Education, Eco-architectural Design, Biomedical Engineering, Music, Food, Social Development, Neuroscience, and more. No religious or political ideas.”


       This year’s conference featured twelve speakers from six countries. All were from different professional and educational backgrounds, allowing everyone to offer a unique point of view. The mix of speakers not only made the event more interesting, but also aptly represented the diversity of the IIT community.


       Planning for TEDxIIT 2015 will not begin until next fall. Incoming freshman, you have a chance to be a part of this amazing event! For more information about TEDxIIT (including speaker bios, talks, and photos), you can visit tedxiit.com.


Check out some talks!



Tired of winter? So are we…


With all of this talk of more cold weather ahead, our students are turning their attention to the day they will once again reap the benefits of a Chicago summer. First-year mechanical engineering student, Kevin Hupp, reflects on the warmer days to come:

One advantage of attending IIT is that we are very close to downtown Chicago, and the city provides many things to do both day and at night.  A less advertised, and closer attraction to IIT is Lake Michigan and the 31st St. Beach – JUST ONE MILE FROM IIT!


As a lifelong resident of the Chicagoland area, visiting Lake Michigan has always been a part of my summer time activities, and nothing has changed that in my time here at IIT.  Throughout the first few weeks of the fall semester, while the Chicago August weather has recently been reaching record highs, Lake Michigan becomes an oasis with a balmy wind and ice cold water.


As the weather begins to cool off, jogging and biking along the lake is perfect break from studying.  Also as an added bonus, the lake front trails are almost exactly a mile from campus, so no need to worry about keeping track of the distance on your way to or from.  Need a bike?  Even if you don’t have a bike with you on campus, the cost of renting a Divvy bike from either of the two stations located on IIT’s campus is only $7 for a whole day.  As you travel up the trails along the lakefront you might pass sights such as the Burnham Harbor, four popular Chicago museums, Navy Pier, North Avenue Beach, and maybe even the Lincoln Park Zoo if your legs will take you that far.


When the weather starts to get cold here in Chicago, the activity by the lake comes to a temporary halt.  The occasional fitness crazed individual may be seen making a jog to the lake front, but for the most part, the residents here at IIT stay in the comfort of their heated residence halls and enjoy indoor activities. As we enter March, the countdown has begun to the dog days of summer and the mass exodus of Chicagoans to summertime on Lake Michigan (cue Kanye’s “Homecoming”).

Kevin Hupp ’17

Work at the Museum of Science and Industry this semester!

The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is the largest science museum in the western hemisphere, holding more than 35,000 artifacts and almost 14 acres of interactive exhibit space. MSI is contained in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and opened in 1933 under philanthropist Julius Rosenwald’s vision to create a hands-on industry museum in the United States. The museum recently celebrated its 80th birthday and continues to achieve its mission to “inspire the inventive genius in everyone” along with the help of some IIT students.

Photo courtesy of msi.org

Each semester, 12 Illinois Tech students have a chance to volunteer at the museum as part of a unique partnership between the university and the museum. Over the course of the volunteership, the students learn up to three interactive and hands-on demonstrations that they present to the general public at the museum. They get to work on their presentation and public speaking skills while working under the close mentorship of lead interns at the museum. The demonstrations that students present cover a fun variety of topics including Newtonian physics, sound, and magnetism. During the volunteership, students also get to explore and learn about one of the most well-known science museums in the country and meet people from all over the world. After completing their volunteer sessions at the museum, students are eligible to apply for a full-time paid internship at the museum over the summer.

During the internship, eight students learn and present a variety of live science demonstrations to museum guests on a daily basis. Over the course of the internship last summer, the Illinois Tech interns learned seven different programs and facilitated them with over 30,000 guests throughout the duration of the 12-week internship.

Interns work alongside a team of other year-round, full-time facilitators at the museum who help them learn demonstrations and improve communication skills. The year-round facilitators assist the IIT interns by observing their demonstrations and offering constructive criticism and feedback in regard content, style, and delivery.


The programs that summer interns have learned and presented in previous summers include demonstrations from across all realms of science, from astronomy to biology. One show, “Happy Brrthday,” is an interactive mock birthday party for a famous scientist or inventor that features several experiments with liquid nitrogen and culminates in making liquid nitrogen ice cream for the audience. Another program, “Bangs, Flashes, and Fire,” MSI’s most highly-attended show, involves a series of explosive chemistry experiments where the audience learns about matter, combustion, and chemical reactions.

"Bangs, Flashes, and Fire" exibit

“Bangs, Flashes, and Fire” exibit

The MSI-IIT internship partnership is now entering its 7th year and is an exclusive partnership between the museum and Illinois Institute of Technology. This partnership began with a common trustee between IIT and MSI, and the program aims to foster communication skills in students while making science education accessible to the community through the delivery of several fun and interactive live science demonstrations at MSI.

The MSI-IIT Internship program has been one of the best parts of my experience at Illinois Tech. I volunteered at the museum during the fall of 2012, and I was selected as an intern for the summer of 2013. Now, I serve as a lead intern for the museum and help train new volunteers and interns as a part of the program.


Volunteering and interning with the museum has helped me with so many things; my public speaking skills have improved, and I’ve learned a lot of fun scientific information that I’ve been able to share with the public. As a physics education major at IIT, this internship is the perfect combination of science and education for me, but it’s also helpful for students in any major. Regardless of one’s intended career path, they’ll need to be able to communicate their work to others outside their field, and the MSI-IIT Internship program allows students to practice doing just that. Volunteering and interning at the museum also helps student gain more self-confidence; a big part of presenting to the general public is learning how to improvise and trust yourself to do well, which translates into other areas.

The MSI Internship Program has become a highly competitive opportunity for IIT students over recent years. In order to become eligible for the volunteership and internship, students need to attend an information session taking place next week during the lunch hour on February 10th, 11th, and 12th. For more information, check out the Facebook event for the sessions here: https://www.facebook.com/events/275629295932291

Study Abroad: You Should Do It

Blog post by: Amy Czarkowski, 4th year Architecture undergraduate student

I recently went to Paris to study abroad. I’m an architecture student in my fourth year, and for the Fall 2013 semester I packed my bags (clothes, archie supplies, and the bare essentials) and hopped on the nine hour flight from Chicago to Paris, France.

Was I scared? Yes.

Did I know French? No.

But was the experience one I would never trade in a million years? Yes.

Not only did I learn about how another part of the world lives, but I also changed as a person. I grew more worldly and got more of a backbone. I learned that my awkwardness isn’t as crippling in meeting new people as I thought. And even though I didn’t know the language of many people who I talked to, I still held conversations (with lots of dramatic arm movements). And when I ran into people around Paris who needed help finding their way around? I could help! I got stopped numerous times by people who spoke English (and some who didn’t) and was able to point them in the direction that they wanted to go.

I really became a part of the atmosphere and population of Paris in my four months studying there and living in a Parisian apartment on the hill of the Sacre Coeur in the North of Paris.

I also was able to practice my languages! I speak Spanish, and our week-long class trip to Barcelona helped me polish up on what I had forgotten. I also learned many French words, even though when I first went I only knew how to say ‘cheese omelette’ ‘butterfly’ ‘hello’ ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m very sorry, but I don’t speak French.’ I ended up being able to order food without hassle (though watch out for the McDonald’s there. 13 bucks for a meal.) And really, don’t worry if you don’t know the language. In my experience, as long as you try, people will always help you. English is a very widely known language, but that doesn’t mean that you can just default to it. You’ll be met with annoyance if you do so. Try to speak the language of the place that you are going to, and you’ll get really far and people will always be open to helping you.

I didn’t only see Paris, either. We went on class trips to Barcelona and Amsterdam and I also went solo to Mannheim and London. Doing those two trips by myself took a lot of planning and finding my own hostels and getting the bravery up in order to hop a train alone, but they were truly life-changing and amazing. I gave my all to make the best and the most of those four months, even battling my way through hangovers and horrible throat colds. I saw so much architecture and culture and so many interesting people; people from all over Europe speaking all kinds of different languages and dressing in so many different ways. And when you end up meeting another American in your journeys, it’s amazing to be able to talk about Chicago and IIT.

I met lots of new people in my travels, ate SO MUCH AMAZING FOOD, and got closer with the rest of my 18-person architecture studio who I was traveling with. I have memories that I never ever want to lose, and probably never will. Some parts were difficult, but that’s the price you have to pay in order to have an amazing experience that will change your life. The world is an amazing place, and it can’t be seen only through pictures and video. You’ll never know what is out there until you pack your bags and go!

And don’t worry. Chicago will still be here when you get back.

What I’m Thankful for this Holiday Season!

We’re in the midst of Thanksgiving break here at Illinois Tech; students are spending their time of celebrating with their families and friends, catching up on sleep, and studying for the finals week ahead.  I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my favorite things about attending IIT.

Here’s the top ten things I’m thankful for at Illinois Tech:

10. Being on a small campus — Everything on campus is so easy to get to, and you never have to spend too long out in the cold weather while walking to class!

9. Holiday lights outside McCormick Student Village — the decorations make campus feel so much happier as the weather gets colder and finals week begins!

8. Global Grounds – Our on-campus coffee shop has a great supply of caffeine and snacks.

7. Office of Campus Life’s Stress Free Zone — Even when finals week is underway, there are some relaxing things to do around campus!

6. The CTA — It’s easy to get anywhere in the city with the Green Line, Red Line, and State Street bus running through campus.

5. The Bog — There’s so many fun things to do on Thursday and Friday nights!

4. Galvin Library — being open 24 hours a day is great for late-night study sessions.

3. The Student Activities Fund, which allows student organizations to plan awesome events!

2. The One Stop — Illinois Tech’s office where you can get absolutely any IIT-related question answered by their ever-helpful and knowledgeable staff.

1. Living in the beautiful city of Chicago — there’s so much to explore!

-Kori Bowns

B.S. Candidate, Physics Education
Volunteer Coordinator, ILFTC
Business Manager, TechNews
President, Illinois Tech Robotics

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Tweet it to us at @IITUGAdmission !

At Illinois Tech, the “Freshman Fifteen” isn’t quite what you’d think…

The term “Freshman Fifteen” typically refers to weight that students gain during their first year living on campus. However, at IIT, the Freshman Fifteen has a much more enjoyable meaning.

The Illinois Tech Freshman Fifteen is a series of fifteen events that showcase a sampling of fun events that IIT offers to students. Student organizations and departments submit entries to be considered for the Freshman Fifteen lineup, and are selected to provide a diverse representation of the areas of student and departmental programming. Attendance is not mandatory, but students who attend at least 10 of the 15 events are entered into a raffle to win some pretty awesome prizes!

 Here is a list of awesome events students participated in this semester:


The last remaining Freshman Fifteen event is Illinois Tech’s traditional Late Night Breakfast at 10 p.m. on December 3rd in The Commons. At Late Night Breakfast, students can take a break from cramming and relax with their friends to refuel before heading back to their residence hall to continue to prepare for the finals week ahead.

As a Peer Mentor with the Office of Campus Life, I’ve gotten to see a ton of first-year students attend the events and have a great time! It’s wonderful to see such an investment in getting new students immersed in the IIT community.

To learn more about the Freshman Fifteen, the First Year Experience program, or anything else about cool events that Illinois Tech’s campus has to offer, be sure to visit the IIT Office of Campus Life’s website here.

Exploring Bridgeport, Chicago: Home of Illinois Tech

Illinois Tech is nestled comfortably on the south side of Chicago, just minutes from the excitement of downtown. While most IIT students take the time to visit the Chicago Loop downtown often during their early collegiate career, the more subtle neighborhoods closer to campus are often forgotten and passed by until students search for something more than chain restaurants and twenty-plus story buildings.


Image courtesy of Google Maps

Just a few blocks west of Illinois Tech over the Dan Ryan Expressway sits Bridgeport, one of Chicago’s most diverse communities and the home of five of Chicago’s former mayors. Bridgeport is also the home of many IIT students who choose to move off of campus due to the neighborhood’s proximity to campus, housing options, diverse community, and amazing neighborhood atmosphere.

One of the first things any IIT student acquainted with Bridgeport will recommend are the wonderful independently owned food options.  Bridgeport is home to two of my favorite coffee shops in the city–Bridgeport Coffee at 31st Street and Morgan, and Jackalope Coffee and Tea House at 32nd and Halsted. Both are great for caffeine-fueled study sessions when you just need to get away from campus to focus for a while.

For a more well-balanced meal, Bridgeport is also home to some of the greatest restaurants in Chicago. My personal favorite, Pleasant House Bakery, located across the street from Bridgeport Coffee at 31st and Morgan, is the home of savory English-style meat pies, seasonal sweets, and homemade sodas. Other favorites of mine include Pancho Pistolas at 31st and Union for a contemporary sit-down dinner with delectable Mexican cuisine and Phil’s Pizza at 35th and Aberdeen. To top it all off at the end of the night, Bridgeport is also home to a simple ice cream shop, Scoops, at 31st and Wallace.

Image courtesy of pleasanthousebakery.com

These are just a few of the many food options available in the neighborhood for students to explore. Luckily, many of the restaurants in the area are well-known among groups of students and word-of-mouth promotion happens pretty fast when someone discovers their favorite new off-campus dinner spot, so be sure to listen up! Many locations in the Bridgeport neighborhood also offer discounts to Illinois Tech students, so bring along your student discount card!    

In addition to the wonderful food spots in the neighborhood, Bridgeport also holds a strong sense of community and pride.  Since moving to the neighborhood after my second year at IIT, I’ve been able to meet people from all walks of life who are friendly and have a passion to improve their neighborhood. The neighborhood’s diversity comes through in Bridgeport’s art centers and community events. Several parks are also available for guests to relax, exercise, or even go fishing!

Bridgeport is just one of the oft-overlooked neighborhoods in Chicago that have a lot to offer, and I encourage students to get out and safely explore what their city holds for them in addition to the hustle and bustle of downtown. Students at Illinois Tech are in a prime location to do just that: expand their horizons, try new things, and become a part of their greater community.

-Kori Bowns, physics education junior