While many members of West Virginia University’s newest freshman class are just starting to move in, 19 incoming engineering students came to campus a week early to get a head start on college life.
The Academy of Engineering Success, now in its third year, is a week-long pre-college experience designed to bolster students’ learning and life skills.
“We started the program because we saw that a lot of students were leaving engineering for non-academic reasons,” said Ordel Brown, teaching assistant professor of freshman engineering and founder of AcES. “In many cases, it was the social aspects and not feeling like they were prepared for college that caused them to change majors. So we created a program that designed to ease them into college life.”
The week is designed to help prepare students for the trials of being both an engineer and a college student through a collection of lectures, hands-on engineering activities, college success lessons, tours of campus and field trips. Freshman Engineering faculty members meet with the students in an effort to make them feel comfortable approaching faculty with whatever they need.
“This is a week of fun activities to help them become successful engineers. It takes the anxiety out of the first week of classes,” said Melissa Morris, a teaching assistant professor and academic adviser for the Freshman Engineering Program. “I think meeting the faculty face-to-face helps them realize that we’re human.”
As is the case with all pre-engineering and general engineering students, the students enrolled in AcES won’t choose an engineering major until the start of their sophomore year. To help them with this selection, a variety of speakers across all engineering disciplines are brought in to expose the students to career options.
The students are given a project during the week. This year, they built an automatic dog feeder. The students were broken into four groups and the designs were tested against each other by Marlon Brando, the Engineering Learning Center’s therapy dog.
Because college is not just about studying and going to class, the students also participate in sessions dealing with personal finances, time management and social life management activities. The students were able to move into their new dorm rooms early, allowing them to adjust to dorm life, which means eating dining hall food and finding their way around WVU’s Evansdale Campus.
“It definitely takes the stress out of moving in,” said Alexa Tweedlie, from Glen Dale. “Any help I can get to advance myself in the engineering field, I’m ready to take. I’m ready to come here and make a name for myself.”
AcES continues through the fall semester with the students enrolling in ENGR 293F. The students are also given first privilege to sign up for the summer service-learning course, undergraduate research and internships.
“This helps them become better engineers because they gain confidence and self-efficacy from the beginning of the program,” said Brown. “They’re not as stressed because of non-academic life, which can negatively affect their academic success.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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