Week of events promotes engineering on campus

This week the School of Engineering & Applied Science will host its first ever “Engineers Week” to promote opportunities in the field and raise enthusiasm about the discipline.

Coinciding with National Engineers Week, the events — ranging from an ice cream social on Monday to a catapult design competition on Friday — were conceived and planned by graduate engineering students Ying Zheng ENG ’13 and Enping Hong ENG ’14, with the assistance of faculty in engineering and applied science. Zheng and Hong said the week’s purpose is to encourage more Yalies to major in engineering by demonstrating the field’s resources and career opportunities.

“The problem isn’t that [engineering] opportunities aren’t here at Yale,” Hong said. “The problem is that people aren’t connected to them.”

Zheng said she and Hong were invited to plan Engineers Week after Glenn Weston-Murphy, a research support specialist and lecturer in the engineering school, noticed that they had successfully planned engineering career events for undergraduates earlier this year. In addition to their studies, Zheng and Hong are in the undergraduate engagement track in the Advanced Graduate Leadership Program at the engineering school, which focuses on improving internship and research opportunities for engineering majors in Yale College.

Hong said that while the week’s events are open to all Yale College students, several events are targeted at students who have yet to declare a major in order to convince more members of the classes of 2014 and 2015 to go into engineering. Currently, 4 percent of Yale College students graduate with majors in engineering.

Hong pointed to a panel with members of Yale’s engineering faculty, to be held Thursday in Prospect Street’s Dunham Laboratory, and an academic fair with engineering student groups, planned for Tuesday evening in Dunham’s Engineering Student Center, as events that will showcase the career opportunities for engineers.

Although the week has been planned by graduate students, engineering school Deputy Dean Vincent Wilczynski said it fits into the school’s strategic plan established under Dean T. Kyle Vanderlick.

“One of the long-term plans of the [engineering school] is to foster ‘the culture of engineering on campus,’” Wilczynski said. “This is an exact example of what that really means.”

Kayla Matheus ’11, an intern at the school’s new Center for Engineering Innovation and Design who assisted Hong and Zheng with planning the week, said she hopes the events will help spread excitement about the major.

“I think that Engineers Week is evidence of a current drive for more of an engineering community at Yale — one that gets undergrads excited right from the start,” Matheus said.

Hong said he thought a large number of students had shown interest in the week’s events, but it was still too early to know how many students would attend its programming. The week has been advertised around campus with fliers and group emails, as well as through social networking, he said. As of Sunday evening, 38 students had indicated on Facebook that they were attending the kickoff event, an ice cream social in William L. Harkness Hall for students interested in engineering.

Though only eight of 15 undergraduate engineering majors interviewed had heard about the week or its planned events, they agreed that promoting the engineering resources to students is a good move for the school.

Themistoklis Davris-Sampatakakis ’15, a mechanical engineering major, said that Yale’s academics are superb for engineering majors, citing the one-to-one student-to-faculty ratio. But a shortage of career assistance, particularly a lack of on-campus recruiting, has made it difficult for engineering students to find jobs after Yale, he said.

Sagar Yadama ’15 agreed, adding that an increase in the number of engineering majors could benefit the quality of the programs by encouraging Yale to increase its support for the field and create a greater variety of opportunities.

“Once it gets more competitive, they’re going to have to give us more,” Yadama said.

National Engineers Week was created in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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