SWE provides scholarships for high school seniors and mentoring and professional development opportunities
By Bryan Hay
Kaitlyn Koch ’15 serves as president of the Lehigh Valley chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), leading 90 active members and providing them with a supportive community of mentors who provide professional development opportunities and inspire future generations of women engineers.
Koch, who received an engineering studies degree, with a minor in government and law, from Lafayette and an MBA from West Chester University, is a project manager in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) division at Air Products. Originally from Easton, she joined the Lafayette SWE collegiate section in 2012 and transitioned to the Lehigh Valley Professional Section in 2015. Koch began her leadership role in 2019 as executive vice president and was named president in 2020.
She returned to campus May 7 for SWE’s annual scholarship banquet for graduating high school girls, which was attended by Lauren Anderson, William Jeffers Director of Engineering, James T. Marcus ’50 Scholar and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Amy Van Asselt, assistant professor of mechanical engineering who serves as SWE’s faculty adviser. She took time from her schedule to discuss her work with SWE and how Lafayette prepared her for her career and leadership role.
Please describe your main goals for SWE.
I’m always proud to continue the legacy that was established by the Lehigh Valley chapter of SWE in 1984. In the 1980s, local women engineers broke a lot of ceilings for us and helped establish things that benefited later generations.
That legacy is about making sure there’s a social outreach network for women engineers in the Lehigh Valley to talk about their professions and establishing a scholarship program that has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships to local girls looking to pursue engineering degrees. I’m really proud that we partnered with Lafayette this year on the scholarship program, which is led by Jennifer Doyle ’97. That’s something I strive to continue as president, to keep that program growing with more local sponsors, so girls continue to have the opportunities that we’ve had.
How did Lafayette prepare you for your career and leadership role with SWE?
There are different ways that Lafayette helped shape me. One of the things I really value in life was choosing a smaller school. Your connections to your professors and advisers provide a lot of opportunities to just network with them.
That smaller school aspect of Lafayette always made me feel like I was in some sort of leadership role because I was responsible for what I was doing. There was always attention paid to you, whether in a student club or class.
There were unique opportunities beyond the Engineering Division, like serving on a senior committee, allowing me to network with people who weren’t in an engineering program at Lafayette. It helped me gain leadership skills by learning how to network by interacting with students with different majors.
You come from a family of Lafayette engineers. How did they inspire you?
My grandfather, Donald L. Koch ’72, is an electrical engineer. My father, Donald R. Koch ’92, was an engineering studies major like me, and my brother, Andrew Koch ’12, is a mechanical engineer.
Engineering was just something I was always good at. I was surrounded by it growing up. My dad was a manager of a mineral technology plant on 13th Street in Easton. He always talked about his job. I knew I wanted a career like that, doing something hands-on, and so I got involved in the Take Your Child to Work Day program. I was always seeing what he was doing. I always liked the business part of a job but also seeing how things are made. I saw my dad’s job making different types of carbon breaks for the V-22 Osprey, and knew I wanted to be involved in something meaningful like that and continue the family legacy of being an engineer.
Any advice or perspectives you’d like to share with high school students considering Lafayette?
You’re going to connect with people who you wouldn’t normally talk to. You’re going to need to expand your network with people who have walked through different paths of engineering and people who are studying different fields altogether. At Lafayette, you will come out of your bubble. It will help you in ways that you won’t even realize initially.
For more information about SWE Lehigh Valley, visit lv.swe.org/