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Chelsea Hagan poses with Ada Wilson lecturer Sarah Kovaleski.

Chelsea Hagan poses with Ada Wilson lecturer Sarah Kovaleski, director of engineering design for Ameren Missouri at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant in Fulton, Mo.

MU’s student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers eighth annual Ada Wilson Lecture preceded the organization’s traditional Green Tea, held during Engineers’ Week in March. The lecture’s namesake was the first woman to graduate from the MU College of Engineering.

Sarah Kovaleski, director of engineering design for Ameren Missouri at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant in Fulton, Mo., gave the 2015 Wilson lecture. At Ameren, Kovaleski is responsible for oversight of mechanical and civil design, electrical and instrument control design, plant life extension, reactor engineering and safety analysis. She is the first woman to serve as an engineering director at the plant.

Kovaleski discussed her experiences as an engineer and relayed her experience with a “crisis of confidence,” explaining that many young engineers mistakenly feel they must be expert in every aspect of a potential job situation in order to accept a position.

“[Women] struggle to be confident without full mastery of a situation,” she said. “It holds us back. But experience equals confidence.”

Kovaleski and her husband Scott, an MU professor of electrical and computer engineering, have two children and all the after-school and weekend activities that go along with having kids. When Kovaleski was first offered the Ameren director position, she worried about calling attention to her need for balance between her home and work lives. She said it took a lot of courage, but she shared her concerns with the plant’s vice president. And he was very supportive.

“People talk about having it all, but the key is finding what works for you and your family,” said Kovaleski who believes her and her husband’s  busy lifestyles have instilled a sense of character and individuality in their children.

“I am an engineer. That’s where I belong,” she said.

“Each of you has your own story of what inspired you; what sparks your passion, what lights your fire,” Kovaleski told the group. “Be confident, brave, and passionate. And build each other up.”