Outstanding Collegiate Member

Abby Culloton

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

For being an exceptionally organized and enthusiastic leader; for dedication to both school and community demonstrated through service; and for promoting inclusive and innovative ideas that empower aspiring women engineers.

Abby Culloton was in middle school when she first learned about the Society of Women Engineers. She attended a STEM outreach program and a series of weekly workshops sponsored by Northern Illinois University. In high school, she attended an Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day event sponsored by the SWE section at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) designed to introduce girls to the STEM world. Upon her acceptance to UIUC to study civil and environmental engineering, she immediately sought out the SWE section.

During her first two years with the section, Culloton served as chair of Girl Scout Workshops, where she planned a series of STEM-based badge workshops and led hands-on activities. She also connected Girl Scouts with SWE section mentors to reinforce their interests in STEM fields. Because in-person events were limited due to the global pandemic, Culloton created videos and virtual content to keep students engaged. She also sent participants gift baskets full of games and activities to coincide with the videos.

The following year, Culloton took on the role of UIUC SWE director of community service and supervised a committee of 14 chairs who were responsible for organizing, fundraising, and seeking out new community service activities. To enhance her leadership skills, Culloton was selected for the SWE Leadership Development Program, an intensive yearlong program designed to help collegiate members expand their leadership potential and overall SWE knowledge. Selected participants attend monthly meetings, develop relationships with collegiate and professional SWE members, and put their newfound knowledge to work by implementing their own collegiate and outreach programs.

Culloton averages about 50 volunteer hours each year for section-sponsored events such as river cleanups, mental health awareness campaigns, and events with Habitat for Humanity and Relay For Life.

She was a Global Sustainability Scholar and an intern with the university’s Women in Engineering (WIE) and Grainger College of Engineering First-Year Experience (GFX) programs. In her role as sustainability scholar, she supported recycling and habitat restoration projects in San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica, and collaborated with local communities to determine solutions for environmental challenges. Her internship involved designing and editing the WIE and GFX websites and serving as an orientation leader for incoming first-year engineering students. Culloton also served as a water quality intern with the University of Illinois Extension’s Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, where she managed the collection of municipal stormwater data for more than 300 communities statewide and launched case studies on communities with outstanding stormwater practices.

As Culloton enters her final year of university, she will serve as secretary of the UIUC SWE section. She is scheduled to complete her coursework for a B.S. in December 2023. In her spare time, the Bartlett, Illinois, resident enjoys reading, baking, and playing the piano.