Drexel Engineering Celebrates Remarkable Women Engineers

The first women were admitted to what was then the School of Engineering in 1943, and since then, women engineers educated at Drexel have been making an impact on both the college and the industry. In recognition of Women’s History Month, the College of Engineering celebrates the women who had made an impact on the College’s past, present and future.

Joan Rubin and Alice Forbes ’47

Joan Rubin and Alice Forbes

Rubin and Forbes were among the first class of women to enroll at the School of Engineering. They graduated together in 1947, Rubin as Drexel’s first female electrical engineering graduate and Forbes as its first female chemical engineering graduate. Fifty-two years later, Forbes’ grandson would follow in her footsteps as a graduate of the College of Engineering.

Alma Forman
Alma Forman met with SWE officers in 2015.

Alma Forman ’49

Inspired by a term paper written by Phyllis Diamond Rose ’53, Forman chaired a group of female students who organized a regional conference for women engineers in the spring of 1949. The conference, which brought together students from 19 colleges, sparked the formation of the national Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Read more about the early history of women in engineering at Drexel.

Margaret “Peggy” Burns ’79

Peggy Burns

Burns began her career at Drexel as a math major, but a co-op experience showed her how math could be used in a more concrete way, so she joined the College of Engineering as an electrical engineering major. Her career has taken her to IBM, Lockheed Martin and Xerox, and she has contributed to projects including satellite GPS, EZPass, and open payment systems like SEPTA Key. She has given back to the college countless times, establishing the Peggy Burns Fund for Engineering in 2011 to support students who need seed money for projects and becoming the namesake for the Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering, which was established to support a faculty member who champions women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Anne Stevens ’80

Anne Stevens

Stevens’ interest in engineering dates back to her childhood, when she attended stock car races with her father. In high school, she disguised herself so she could participate in the male-only pit crew at a track. Her career has similarly broken ground multiple times, including holding roles as the first female CEO of Carpenter Technology Corporation and the first female plant manager and group vice president for Ford Motor Company. She is currently a leader at Anglo American plc, an FTSE 100 constituent. Stevens has been an ardent supporter of the College of Engineering. In 2007, she and Lockheed Martin donated $1 million to establish a professorship and the Anne L. Stevens Scholarship Program for engineering students with financial need, and in 2021, Stevens was the College of Engineering’s commencement speaker.

Karen Jehanian ’82

Karen Jehanian

Combining engineering and entrepreneurship, Jehanian followed up her undergraduate degree in civil engineering with an Executive MBA, also from Drexel. She is president and owner of KMJ Consulting, Inc., in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. KMJ is a regular employer of Drexel co-op students, who learn from Jehanian and the culture she has built that engineering is not just about math and science, but also about teamwork and communications skills.

Vanessa Brown-Nedrick ’00, 09

Vanessa Brown-Nedrick

After transferring to Drexel from Penn State, Brown-Nedrick completed her undergraduate degree in civil engineering and landed a job with the Philadelphia Water Department. To advance in her career, she returned to Drexel to earn a master’s in engineering management. She joined Remington & Vernick Engineers in 2007, where she has worked with municipalities to design roads, upgrade water treatment facilities, and even improve Philadelphia’s City Hall. She was recently named the first black, female owner in the company’s 120-year history. She regularly speaks at high schools to encourage other young women to pursue STEM careers.

Danielle Schroeder ’17

Danielle Schroeder

From the time she started as a student at Drexel, Schroeder was a champion for other students. The BS/MS graduate was a student tutor, a peer mentor and a member of the student Society of Women Engineers group. Now, as a professional transportation engineer with Gannett Fleming, she spends her free time volunteering for a variety of initiatives that get children as young as kindergarten up to women in high school involved in engineering. Schroeder was the recipient of a 2020 Community Outreach and Service Award from the Philadelphia section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She also serves on the Drexel Alumni Board of Governors.

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