"Getting them to apply is the key thing. Getting them to think about engineering is the key thing," Gabriele said.
It also involved hiring more female faculty members.
"I think one of the biggest things is providing role models," said Amy Fleischer, a Villanova engineering professor who earned her undergraduate degree from the university in 1991. "The more you can get women in the field - being role models and professor, putting them in front of middle schoolers and high schoolers - the more you can really see yourself wanting to pursue that profession."
At Villanova 22 years ago, Fleischer didn't have a single female engineering professor. She drew support instead from friends in the field, women who were bucking trends long before universities began concerted efforts to attract women to math and science fields.
"The more people you can get contributing your ideas - it just brings a different perspective to the workplace. If you look at the old Apollo photographs, you see nothing but white men," she said, laughing. "You've got a much better perspective now."
These days, women going into engineering at Villanova say next to no one is surprised they're interested in the field. Many are following in the footsteps of mothers or older sisters. And Villanova's trend toward a more diverse engineering school is holding - the school's incoming freshman class in 2012 was also 31 percent female.
"It's definitely a really great field to get into - it just opens so many doors for you," said Rebecca Weigand, 21, of Jackson, N.J. "It's not as intimidating as people make it out to be."
Weigand is staying at Villanova to complete a graduate degree - "grad school gets even smaller for female engineers, but I've never been intimidated by that," she said.
"You meet a few people along the way that question why you're there," said Hillary Guardo, 22, of Flemington, N.J., who will start a nuclear reactor engineering job with the Navy after graduation. "But then on the other side, you'll meet more people out there who are excited to have women diving in."
Contact Aubrey Whelan at 610-313-8112, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.