As a part of Lehigh’s Soaring Together celebration of 50 years of gender-inclusive undergraduate education, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics hosted an event outside of Packard Lab on October 29 to recognize women and people of underrepresented genders in the Lehigh Engineering community.

Group photo
Students, faculty, and staff recently gathered in front of Packard Lab for a celebration of 50 years of gender-inclusive education hosted by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. (Photos: Christa Neu)
Ebru Demir, Christina Viau Haden, Natasha Vermaak, and Hannah Dailey

Attendees gathered to enjoy apple cider and pumpkin cookies as mentors spoke about the importance of gender equality and how Lehigh has adapted to become more inclusive.

This fall, MechE welcomed assistant professor Ebru Demir, the department’s fourth woman faculty member (pictured, far right) joining (pictured, from left Christina Viau Haden, Natasha Vermaak, and Hannah Dailey).

event participants in front of Packard Lab

“Our current and prospective students will be able to learn and be inspired by these successful women and know that it can happen for them, too,” said Arindam Banerjee, professor and MechE department chair. 

“It is not a responsibility that I take lightly to train and pave the way for the next generation of women and non-binary engineers and scholars,” Demir said. “Lehigh’s efforts in embracing diversity, and actively seeking ways to enrich our students’ experiences through exposure to role models from different backgrounds will advance these ideals within the academy, industry, and beyond.”

MechE momento

Lehigh graduate student Natalie Maroun ’21 commented on the encouragement and inspiration she has gained from her classmates, professors, and advisors, all of which contributed to her decision to further her education in mechanical engineering and pursue a master’s degree.

Their support “has given me the confidence to continue to be a voice in the engineering community as a woman,” she said, “and I hope to continue to do so throughout my time in the industry.”

Event attendees received a memento—a laser-cut wooden medallion of the number 50 with a gear for the zero—marking the occasion.

Lehigh’s Soaring Together celebration of Lehigh women and 50 years of coeducation will continue into 2022.

—Alyssa Caroselli ’24 is a student writer for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science

Arindam Banerjee

Lehigh MechE reflects on Soaring Together

"Like many of my peers, I did not have any female professors in mechanical engineering throughout my three educational degrees that spanned two continents and three academic institutions! I believe that diversity in personalities, gender, backgrounds, and nationalities is essential as it offers students the ability to see different types of people in the role of a mechanical engineer.”  —Arindam Banerjee, professor and department chair

“Fifty years of gender-inclusive undergraduate engineering education is a long time, and it is wonderful to know that our department has been there from the very beginning! Today, I am so proud to be a Lehigh Mechanical Engineering alum, and also the grandchild, niece, cousin, spouse, sister, mentor, professor, friend, and hopefully (someday in the future) parent of other Lehigh alumni.” —Hannah Dailey ’02 ’06G ’09 PhD, assistant professor

“It feels very special to be at Lehigh for this 50-year anniversary. It has made me reflect a lot on my experience as a woman in mechanical engineering and mechanics and my journey getting here. I am so grateful to have had professors, advisors, and classmates who treated me with respect and made me feel like I belong. While there have been moments of intimidation and self-doubt, I have grown confident and empowered to prove my worth as a female engineer. I am excited to see and contribute to the progress made in the next 50 years!” —Margaret Huettner ’21, graduate student

“I recognize and celebrate pioneering women as well as other minoritized gender experiences (e.g. non-binary communities and trans folks) who have broken barriers and strengthened communities to make Lehigh and the world more just and equitable so that people of all genders and sexualities are able to thrive and soar. I am passionate about continuing this work!” —Natasha Vermaak, associate professor

“We have much to celebrate in our department: not only that our department has been co-ed for 50 years now, but that we have gone from none to four—four!—women faculty in mechanical engineering and mechanics within the last decade alone. Imagine what the next one could bring!” —Christina Viau Haden, professor of practice

“I am honored to be graduating from the same university that has produced so many successful female engineers in the past 50 years. I’m grateful for all of the progress that has been made within the field and look forward to making my own contributions and working alongside these dedicated women.” —Ashley Wilhelm ’22, undergraduate student