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SASE Stresses Building Community During One McCormick Lecture

During their virtual talk, Sean Wang and Amil Dravid gave an overview of the group that was founded in 2015

Sean Wang and Amil Dravid discussed many aspects of SASE, including how the group has recruited new members during the pandemic.

Joining the Northwestern chapter of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers allows international and domestic students to interact and become a single tight-knit community.

During their virtual talk as part of the One McCormick series, vice president Sean Wang (’21) and internal events chair Amil Dravid (’23) told how the group, founded in 2015, has members from a range of disciplines, from neuroscience to mechanical engineering. The chapter builds community in three ways: hosting professional events such as workshops and brown-bag lunches, social events where members can highlight their cultural backgrounds, and service events that include volunteering in the community. 

“We have a mix of international students and (domestic) students,” said Wang, who’s studying materials science. “Part of the community that we’ve built is the non-international students can interact and become friends with international students who may not have as strong connections to the area.” 

Julio M. Ottino

Dravid, a computer science and statistics major, said he joined SASE because he was looking for a group that’s “not purely technical.”

“I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into just doing computer science stuff, but on the other hand I didn’t want to do something that had no relation to my interests,” Dravid said. “I thought that SASE would be a great forum for meeting people who have similar interests but not necessarily the same.”

In his introduction, McCormick School of Engineering Dean Julio M. Ottino said that as leader of Northwestern Engineering, it’s his role to provide conditions for groups to successfully emerge. Those groups can have shared interests, or the members can be bonded by other forms of identity. They can be called safe spaces, and crucially, the groups are open to everybody.

“Having different groups is good,” Ottino said. “We want dynamic equilibrium between all of these components. We don’t want disconnected places.”

Established in 2007, the national organization emphasizes it is open to everyone. With more than 100 chapters nationwide, SASE is dedicated to the advancement of Asian-heritage scientists and engineers in education and employment. SASE also encourages members to contribute to the enhancement of their communities.

Like other groups, SASE has worked to welcome new members during the pandemic. The 2020 national conference was held virtually, and the Northwestern chapter has adjusted to staging events and recruiting remotely.

SASE attracted new members via the October 1 McCormick Student Activities Fair and the September 24 University-wide version. Dravid said the virtually experiences were still valuable, with many attendees showing an interest in joining.

The One McCormick lecture series provides faculty and students with a venue to present their efforts each week in an effort to build community and enhance connectivity amongst the dynamic network at Northwestern Engineering. The series focuses on the student experience, including diversity, health and wellness, and student success. 

Earlier presentations included: