March 21, 2022

Aggie women in engineering are going beyond breaking the glass ceiling—they’re building a network of empowerment to aid success in a field where women are underrepresented.

The Texas A&M University College of Engineering has recruited the highest number of incoming freshmen women nationally since 2015. That same year, the Women in Engineering (WE) program relaunched to provide academic, professional and personal growth opportunities for female undergraduate and graduate students. The program’s scope goes beyond an immediate increase in the number of female engineering students; it implements inclusive practices that change the culture in engineering.

Engineering Mentorship

When Amanda Rakoski ’20 began her freshman year as a biomedical engineering student, she was one of those women who needed confidence. “I would get sick to my stomach presenting in front of people,” Rakoski shared. “I had imposter syndrome about being an engineer and was unsure of myself.” One thing she was sure of, however, was that she loved helping and mentoring others. Rakoski believes that pursuing biomedical engineering and mentoring others is her life’s purpose. In fact, without biomedical engineering, she might not be here today.

Amanda Rakoski '20 is following her biomedical engineering passions as a Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University.

Rakoski found her passion for biomedical engineering after learning that she and her twin sister were born prematurely. Without advances in biomedical engineering technology, their survival chances would have been slim. Now a Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University, the nation’s top biomedical engineering department, she is researching and designing solutions that will help save others just like engineers did for her.

“Texas A&M helped me become proud of who I am and excited for who I could become.”
- Amanda Rakoski '20

Her desire to give back similarly stems from experiences with her twin sister, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. She struggled to express her emotions, and Rakoski was often the only person who could help her communicate. As she got older, Rakoski realized that helping her sister shaped her love for mentoring and led her to seek out ways she could mentor at Texas A&M.

She cherished serving as a WE Ambassador, where she spoke to young women in grade school and high school about pursuing STEM careers. Having learned the immense value of doing more than excelling in the classroom, she hopes to one day become a professor and inspire future generations of women in engineering. “Texas A&M helped me become proud of who I am and excited for who I could become,” Rakoski explained. “Mentoring and WE gave me a chance to do the same for others.”

Engineering Connection

Unlike Rakoski, Judy Amanor-Boadu, Ph.D. ’13 ’18 focused solely on academics while pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Having spent most of her childhood in Ghana dismantling toys to understand how they worked, Amanor-Boadu knew she wanted to pursue engineering. As for what track, however, she was initially unsure. “I didn’t know what electrical engineering involved when I chose it,” she said, “but I knew everyone needs electricity, so I went for it.”

Judy Amanor-Boadu ’13 ’18 has discovered the importance of building connections and mentoring others through the Women in Engineering program.

After being one of three students at her Ghanaian college selected by Texas Instruments to do a semester abroad, she decided she wanted to further her education at Texas A&M with a graduate degree. Despite graduating with the highest honors, she struggled to find a job without a robust professional network. Determined to go beyond studying and researching to have a “complete education,” she changed course and started a Ph.D. program.

Engineering Excellence

From NASA to TEDx Talks, Aggie women in engineering are exceptional at taking their Texas A&M education and becoming standout individuals in all areas of engineering. Their phenomenal careers inspire young women like Foster to make their own distinguished accomplishments.

Check out these six outstanding women engineering alumni.

Benita Mordi ’15: Engineering Systems Management

As one of three women in her first undergraduate engineering class at the University of South Wales, Benita Mordi ’15 quickly learned the challenges and stereotypes associated with women in engineering. When she arrived at Texas A&M, she found community and unwavering support in the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers.

She is now the president of the National Society of Black Engineers – Chicago Professionals and continues to advocate for underrepresented groups in engineering. Recently, Mordi gave a TEDx Talk, where she emphasized the positive role models she met at Texas A&M and how they helped her achieve her position as a senior systems engineer at Dell Technologies.

Sharon Pearlnath ’21: Mechanical Engineering

Having always dreamed of working on vehicles—whether on land, air, sea or space—Sharon Pearlnath ’21 found a love for software and data science in Aggieland. She co-founded and served as president for Tidal TAMU, an organization focused on bringing awareness and teaching students about data science and computer programming through projects and workshops. After interning at Boeing for two summers, she is now a full-time software engineer for the International Space Station Command and Control Software team.

Stephanie Hertzog ’96: Chemical Engineering

After earning her degree in chemical engineering, Stephanie Hertzog ’96 earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. She is currently the CEO of North America Energy & Resource for Sodexo, a company that serves more than 100 million consumers each day. She has chaired the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering’s Advisory Council, served on the College of Engineering’s Advisory Council and been a member of the Engineering Honors Steering Committee.

Hertzog has also served as president of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Club of Houston and vice president of the HBS Alumni Board. In 2020, she was named in the National Diversity Council’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas and was also recognized as an Outstanding Leader in Energy Honoree by the Houston Business Journal in 2018.

Fiona McCracken Allen ’82: Civil Engineering

Fiona McCracken Allen ’82 was the regional manager for the Trinity River Authority, where she is responsible for wholesale water and wastewater services for 1.4 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex following her time as Deputy City Manager for the city of Arlington for more than 20 years. Now a senior advisor for HR Green, she provides expertise in program management and water resources for select clients in North Texas. 

She has received a multitude of honors, including the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering’s Distinguished Graduate Award, the College of Engineering Outstanding Alumni Award and Mid Cities Chapter TSPE Engineer of the Year. She has also presented and co-authored papers at several state conferences as well as at the American Water Works Association and Water Environment Federation national conventions.

Merri Sanchez ’85: Aerospace Engineering

As a technical fellow, Dr. Merri Sanchez ’85 provides strategic and technical advice to The Aerospace Corporation. Before this role, she was the chief scientist of the Air Force Space Command, advising the commander on space and cyber science and technology. She also served as a senior executive at NASA, working with Department of Defense space-related matters, the International Space Station Program, and the Shuttle Program. She was also a senior director for the Space Systems Group at Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Sanchez is currently a member of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station external advisory board and formerly served on the College of Engineering and Aerospace Engineering advisory boards. She is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and was inducted into the Colorado Space Hero Hall of Fame. She has received numerous national, NASA and Air Force medals and awards and has authored more than 18 publications. 

Janeen Judah ’81: Petroleum Engineering

A former president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers International and general manager of the Chevron South Africa Business Unit, Janeen Judah ’81 ’83 has played a role in offshore development projects, environmental cleanup and decommissioning for global operations. Before joining Chevron, she worked for Texaco and ARCO. She now works as an independent director for various companies, including Patterson-UTI, Crestwood Midstream Partners LP and Aethon Energy.

Judah has four degrees and has been on the board of directors for four companies. She is the founding chair of the Aggie Women Engineers Network, serves on the College of Engineering’s Advisory Council and is a member of the Petroleum Engineering Industry Board. Judah is a renowned leader and speaker and often speaks to audiences about how Texas A&M contributed to her success.


You can support the Women in Engineering Endowed Excellence Fund through gifts of $25 or more by clicking the button below. If you’re interested in learning more about any of the giving opportunities above, please contact Hannah Simonds ’17 at the bottom of this page.

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