Wednesday, August 8, 2018

College of Engineering - Alumni News

Engineering School Visit '18
Last month my university newsletter published an interview and story that followed my visit to campus and 50-year reunion event. Being interviewed for the magazine was an incredible honor. I hope in some small way I represented our transgender community in a positive manner. There were *positive comments posted on the University site and my College of Engineering asked if they could cross-post the original article along with the photo on the VCU College of Engineering website. That post appeared yesterday on their website. 

Rebecca Jones the Associate Editor for writing in the Engineering School, asked if she could add to the original interview with related engineering school material and this to be included as a sidebar. She did the follow-up interview and her material is shown below. Thank you, Rebecca and thanks again to Erica Naone for putting together the original wonderful article.  

Below is the "A walk through Engineering West Hall with Rhonda Williams" additional information that was added to the original post:

When engineer and software entrepreneur Rhonda Williams (A.S.’68) was studying engineering technology at RPI (Richmond Professional Institute) in the 1960s, three decades before what is now the College of Engineering started, there was one computer on campus. It was used for scheduling classes and recording grades. “I just wanted to get in there and touch it,” she said.

When Williams toured the College of Engineering last spring, she was gratified to see the learning resources available now. “It was wonderful to see the computer labs, the breadboards and all the innovations in computers that are taking place there,” she said. The engineering history showcase on the fourth floor of Engineering West Hall was a reminder of how far she — and engineering at VCU — have come. “That slide rule was our first computer,” she said.

Something that has not changed in the last 50 years is VCU’s commitment to educating workforce-ready engineers. Williams recalled that in 1968, engineering technology students stood out from the counterculture vibe that pervaded other disciplines. “We showed up to class already looking like engineers,” she recalled. “It was shirts and ties, and some even had a belt attachment that was like a holster for your slide rule.”

RPI’s engineering technologies program armed her with tools that she used throughout her career. “The dean of the school taught a course on human relations that made a huge difference as I started my businesses. And English for Engineers: Technical Writing was the course that I have used over and over throughout my career,” she said. “Technology changes. Writing doesn’t.”

Her advice to women in engineering? “Work hard. Stay relevant. Make people take you seriously and make yourself clear. Be an engineer who can explain a concept, and you can own the world.”


*This was one of the comments left for the university article:


  1. Absolutely fabulous Rhonda, so impressive and well deserved. I hope you will write more here about the experiences of ‘Going through the glass ceiling — the opposite way'. Fifty one interviews over 2 years for eventually an unpaid internship is only the start. I so look forward to reading more. Hugs Linda

  2. You are way too modest. This is such a big deal. Being able to successfully to successfully transition employment is what, unfortunately, holds too many transgender people back from living their authentic lives.

    The recognition you have received speaks so highly of you and hopefully will go some way to allowing other transgender women and men just be who they are in society without question or doubt.

    Thank you for all you do!