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Students learn academic and career possibilities, break bread at Russ College welcome event

 | Sep 5, 2017
Associate Dean for Academics Deb McAvoy address first year engineering students

Students learn academic and career possibilities, break bread at Russ College welcome event

Sep 5, 2017

What better way to say “welcome home” than with a plate of steaming lasagna? The Russ College did just that with more than 300 first-year undergraduates at its annual first-year student welcome on Mon., Aug. 28.

The event -- featuring project demo stations throughout the Stocker Center and the Academic & Research Center and ending with a buffet dinner at Baker University Center Ballroom -- gave students the opportunity to not only meet fellow classmates and faculty, but to also preview student-led design projects.

Demo stations displaying problem-solving technologies included a pre-programmed, 1/6-scale autonomous auto that drives in a figure-8 pattern -- and a Sterling cooler, which converts heat into electrical energy.

Alexis McCollough, a freshman mechanical engineering major who is passionate about cars, said the autonomous auto was one of her favorite projects because it gave her insight about future work she could possibly create.

“It’s a far cry from a car, but it’s just a beginning step to see what I can do later,” McCollough said, adding that both of her parents are engineers and that her goal is to work with either Tesla or Audi. 

During the event, learning community leader and junior chemical engineering major Zack Songer guided students through each station. He said a close-knit community of students is one quality that defines the Russ College, and that the event helps incoming students gain a sense of direction.

“Freshmen are for sure overwhelmed at first,” Songer said. “What’s actually really cool though is that eventually they’ll see a project or an organization that really catches their eye and they keen in on that, and it helps them guide their way as to what they want to do.”

Sam Khoury, associate professor of civil engineering, added that for some undecided incoming students, the event helps them to better understand each subfield of engineering. This can often lead to an “ah-ha!” moment of clarity regarding a student’s education and career path.

“It’s very exciting to me,” Khoury said. “I can see light in their eyes sometimes. It’s nice to see that something clicked somewhere -- they’ve made a decision that might change their lives.”

Khoury explained how these decisions impact all of our lives.

“Engineers make life happen,” Khoury said. “Without buildings, roads, cars, airplanes and runways, we wouldn’t have our modern lives.”

After visiting the demo stations, faculty and upperclassmen escorted students to the John Calhoun Baker University Center ballroom, where they dined on a lasagna bar, dropped tickets in a basket to win an iPad mini, and heard from Associate Dean for Academics Deb McAvoy.

She urged the freshmen to look to their peers for support and resources, and explained how engineers and technologists are collaborative.

“When we work together, we do it with integrity, and that’s why we have our own honor code: ‘We members of the Russ College pledge to act with integrity and expect the same from each other,’” McAvoy said.

Students signed their names to a banner sporting the Russ College Honor Pledge as a symbol of their commitment to integrity.

“Ultimately we want you to create for good, and we want you to be able to get started today, so reach out, make connections with people and gather information,” McAvoy said. “This is what’s going to give you a strong foundation that you need to succeed both in the Russ College and beyond.”

Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin closed the event by answering student-submitted questions on topics ranging from how to get an internship, to his favorite jelly bean flavor, to whether students could engage in  project-based learning – the answer was yes, because this is woven throughout the college’s curriculum.

“Those of us who are faculty, department chairs and staff members, we’re here to help you,” Irwin said. “The reason we’re here is because you’re here.”

The Russ College’s total enrollment has reached an all-time high, including more than the 450 first-year students this fall. Read more in Dean Irwin’s welcome back message