SEAS students provide career guidance

Last Friday, at the culmination of Yale’s first Engineers Week, students enjoyed operating homemade catapults in Davies Auditorium.
Last Friday, at the culmination of Yale’s first Engineers Week, students enjoyed operating homemade catapults in Davies Auditorium. Photo by Victor Kang.

Last Friday, students wrapped up Yale’s first Engineers Week by using homemade catapults to fling stuffed animals into targets set up throughout Davies Auditorium.

The catapult launch was one of the culminating events for the week, which was planned by Enping Hong ENG ’14 and Ying Zheng ENG ’13 to showcase Yale’s engineering resources and address the gap in career guidance for engineers between Yale and other top-tier schools. Five out of six undergraduates interviewed who attended the week’s events, all future engineering majors, said they felt that the program provided them with valuable insight on extracurricular and job opportunities available to them.

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

The duo planned Engineers Week to include fun activities such as the catapult launch and ice cream social that would appeal to undergraduates, Hong said. He said he hoped the week, which also included a career panel hosted by the Center for International and Professional Experience, would put undergraduate engineering majors in touch with career opportunities.

Jennifer Saucier-Sawyer ENG ’15, who helped organize the ice cream social, said graduate students discussed research opportunities with undergraduates and referred them to friends and colleagues who work in their fields of interest.

This sort of informal networking is valuable, Zheng said, because the lack of publicity about Yale engineering opportunities could put Yale students at a disadvantage compared to graduates of other schools. Yale’s program is not as well-known as that of Harvard or MIT, and it is too small to attract as many recruiters as a school with more engineering majors, she said. Only 4 percent of Yale College students major in engineering, compared to 60 percent at MIT and 10 percent at Stanford.

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Deputy Dean Vincent Wilczynski said the primary purpose of the week was not career guidance but to celebrate engineering at Yale. However, he added that providing a new avenue to showcase engineering resources was also a positive aspect of the week.

Wilczynski said he did not think there was a lack of engineering opportunities at Yale College, and pointed to the annual academic and activities fairs as examples of outreach by the department.

Daniel Noble ’15 and Pablo Napolitano ’15, both prospective engineering majors, said that they learned of new research opportunities from Engineers Week. Noble added that the week also exposed him to undergraduate engineering organizations at Yale for the first time.

Napolitano said Engineers Week helped him make connections to faculty and graduate students, which helped him decide to perform research with a Yale professor this summer. He said he regrets that there were no earlier engineering events to inform him of such opportunities, because he has now missed deadlines to apply for research fellowships.

“I feel like the opportunity is definitely there, but this is the first I’m being told about it,” Napolitano said. “Outside this event, I haven’t been told how to get in touch with profs or find research opportunities.”

Sagar Yadama ’15, also an engineering major, said he did not think Engineers Week overcame the deficit in career services for Yale engineering majors. He said Yale needs to devote more resources to its engineering departments to keep them competitive.

Both Hong and Zheng are part of the Advanced Graduate Leadership Program, which gives SEAS students the chance to have experiences in fields other than engineering, such as academia, public service and business. They are in the International and Off-Campus Undergraduate Engagement track of the Leadership Program, focusing on expanding resources and opportunities for Yale undergraduate students.

“I believe that, as someone considering an academic profession, serving and helping my students is as important as doing quality research,” Hong said. “In graduate school, it’s too easy to focus solely on the next project or paper, and spend one’s time divorced from the vibrant undergraduate community other than the students one teaches or mentors.”

In the fall, Hong said, the pair collaborated to host representatives from the engineering firms Sikorsky, Engineering World Health, Covidien and Oracle at on-campus talks and career recruitment events. They also held a “how to apply to graduate school” information session for seniors interested in pursuing higher engineering education.

The Leadership Program was created in February 2010 through a $1.91 million grant by The Goizueta Foundation, a cooperative funding program for universities and charities.

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