WRITER: Linda Fresques
This past spring, the College of Engineering launched the first phase of its Engineering Learning Communities initiative with the offering of tutoring to all engineering students. The effort was successful, with a steady stream of students seeking tutoring assistance. Now, with the generous support of donors, Engineering Learning Communities will formally begin the fall semester with additional student services.
“I am pleased that our alumni have been responding positively to our Engineering Learning Communities initiative and we now have some commitments and pledges to support this endeavor,” said College of Engineering Dean Lakshmi Reddi.
“The Mission of Learning Communities is to provide NMSU engineering students the opportunity to develop the skills they need to succeed in school, at work, said Reddi. “Employers not only require top-notch skills in math and science but they want strong written and oral communicators, creative thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs. Engineers do not and cannot work in a vacuum. They work with teams of other people who complement each other’s special skills to bring projects to successful conclusions.”
Led by and Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology John Ross Tapia and Program Manager Elizabeth Howard, Engineering Learning Communities will continue offering tutoring, by peer mentors, for math, science and core engineering courses on a drop-by basis five days a week. Housed in a 7,921-square-foot suite of offices centrally located in the Foreman Engineering Complex, the space will be reconfigured to house offices for student groups and peer-mentoring, along with mentoring by faculty members, industry representatives and alumni.
Learning Communities resources will be integrated with Engineering 100. Since fall 2014, freshmen majoring in engineering have taken Engineering 100, a centralized class that lets them begin working together on engineering principles right away, develop a community of classmates and get mentoring from upperclassmen. Since that time, the percentage of engineering students returning for sophomore year has risen from 64 percent to almost 79 percent – better than NMSU’s overall average. Learning Communities will take this concept and apply it throughout the curriculum, providing assistance with sophomore cornerstone and senior capstone courses.
In 2012, the American Society for Engineering Education reported on the most effective methods universities with engineering and computer science programs use to retain students and ensure they earn degrees. Forty-four universities responded to the survey. The majority of respondents reported that students are more likely to remain in school and in these majors when they can go to a place that offers hands-on learning, tutoring and career counseling and a sense of community.
“We want to ensure that students get the help they need to successfully complete the classes and degree programs they find most difficult–avoiding the need to change majors or drop out of NMSU and that more students graduate and become engineers.” said Tapia.