Living Learning Community for freshman women engineers offers friendship, encouragement

James Treuthardt

As part of the Women in Engineering Program’s Living Learning Community, which started this school year in Kinsolving Residence Hall, provides a space for future women engineers to connect with their peers.

The Kinsolving LLC allows 40 first-year women engineering students to live together in an integrated community. Women are a minority within the Cockrell School of Engineering, making up just 28 percent of its students, according to the Women in Engineering website.

Program Director Tricia Berry said first-year retention rates for women who participate in their residential programs have historically outpaced those of Cockrell School of Engineering.

Berry believes part of those results stem from the impact of all-women communities.

“All-women communities allow women to increase self-confidence and build their sense of self in a safe environment,” Berry said. “Girls who are engaged in all-girl STEM programming are more likely to have the confidence to participate in competitions later and to pursue STEM pathways in college and careers.”

The Women in Engineering Program has burgeoned into a college-wide effort after starting off as a small initiative created by women on the engineering faculty. Founded in 1991, the Women in Engineering Program strives to increase the enrollment of women in the Cockrell School of Engineering to 50 percent.

Kathryn Schmidt, a biomedical engineering sophomore, did not live in an all-women engineering community her freshman year and said she sometimes feels outnumbered by the amount of men in engineering. Schmidt said she believes living in an all-women engineering community would have enhanced her freshman year experience.

“I think it would have made engineering feel a little easier,” Schmidt said. “It definitely would have helped.”

The women who participate in the Kinsolving LLC all participate in a Freshmen Interest Group together, taking similar classes and creating shared experiences.

Lexi Stotler, a mechanical engineering freshman living in the Kinsolving LLC, has found that living there has been a tremendous aid in her freshman year experience. Stotler said living with and taking classes with fellow women engineers has made her year far more relaxed.

“The weight was taken completely off my shoulders,” Stotler said. “I can tell that being in this LLC will help me create some lasting friendships.“

Interested freshmen can apply to live in the Kinsolving LLC, or the four other LLC communities covering various topics and studies, through the on-campus housing application on the University Housing and Dining website.