Kathrin Klemm, a Campion Academy graduate of the class of 2011, graduated from Walla Walla University’s School of Engineering in June as one of seven females in a class of 44. Not only is Klemm encouraging other girls to pursue engineering, she’s taking her passion for engineering and combining it with her desire to serve others.
Klemm first decided to pursue civil engineering because she was interested in humanitarian work. “Campion’s emphasis on missions was a big thing for me. That helped me want to choose a career that I could use to make a tangible difference in the world,” she says. After her first mission trip to Belize with Joe Martin in 2009, Klemm has continued to prioritize service to others.
For the last two years, Klemm has been involved with Walla Walla’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), taking the technical lead last year in the international project. Working with the mountain community in Pampachiri, Peru (elevation 14,500’), Klemm and the rest of her engineering team designed and implemented a gravity-fed water system that ensures a clean water source for the entire community.
Because of her experience with EWB, Klemm has been invited to speak at Southern Adventist University’s TEAMS Forum (Transforming and Educating Ambassadors for Mission and Service). One of the goals of the forum is to encourage sustainability of the mission projects sponsored by the Adventist Church. “It’s something I’ve become really passionate about,” says Klemm. “I’m excited to start sharing this with the Adventist community. It’s such a conscious approach to mission work.”
Klemm credits Campion Academy with not only inspiring her mission-mindedness, but also giving her confidence in her field. “I was in Joe Martin’s Literature Evangelism program, which taught me how to talk to strangers. And, I took calculus from Harold Williams (now retired from Campion), and he encouraged us—never made us feel like women shouldn’t be a part of that class,” she explains. As a student grader for calculus, pre-calculus, and chemistry, Klemm says she became comfortable in the world of science.
Klemm also described Walla Walla as a haven and reported mostly supportive attitudes from her male cohorts, yet the greater engineering field can be much less supportive of women. Klemm remembers her first year in the engineering program was challenging, both because freshman year is a “weeding out” year and because students questioned her choice of field. “I met people who would say, ‘You don’t look like an engineer. You don’t act like an engineer.’ I think a lot of people, when confronted with that kind of attitude, would start second-guessing themselves.”
In 2015, Isis Wenger, an engineer at OneLogin, started a hashtag campaign #ILookLikeAnEngineer to address how people stereotype men and women. In the United States, less than 20% of engineering bachelor’s degrees are earned by women.
Before graduating, Klemm posted this appeal on her Facebook page: “Don't tell your friends, daughters, or sisters that they don't "seem" like engineers. Tell them that their perspective and skills are invaluable and that they can do amazing things for their world. We need them.”
Klemm will begin work in August as a naval architect with the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where she’ll be working on barges that carry retired nuclear reactors to their disposal site.
Jennifer Sigler teaches English at Campion Academy
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