Experience Engineering

Engineering Success

Engineering Student Success

On a Tuesday afternoon in December, half a dozen engineering students huddled around a table in a Jacobs Hall study room. The group, made up of two tutors and a handful of students, mostly freshmen, was working on intervals.

Joanna Ly went over the concept, while her tutoring partner Ashley Qu wrote out questions on a white board for the students. “I always come in here nervous and worried that I won’t have all the answers,” said Ly, a sophomore chemical engineering major. “But they get it and it feels great. It’s extremely re-warding.”

The study group is part of Learning Communities, a program that is itself part of the larger Student Success Initiative launching this year at the Jacobs School of Engineering. The Student Success Initiative is a master plan for student success at the Jacobs School, which aims to increase retention and diversity.

“We want to provide an atmosphere of excellence and support for all our students,” said mechanical engineering professor Olivia Graeve, who is the program’s faculty leader. “We want to support all our students and prepare future engineers who have the skills to engage effectively with an increasingly diverse society.”

Within that framework, Learning Communities creates formal study groups. The goal is to provide students with a supportive environment where they can develop confidence while building study skills and learning the value of studying in a group setting. Groups meet two or three times a week for twohour stretches. The study groups provide support for calculus and physics classes.

The program is at a pilot stage this year, and will expand next year.

“This is a huge university, so it’s nice to have a study group already set up for us,” said Pamella Abergas, a first-year environmental engineering major. “It’s easy to feel isolated.” The study group has helped her stay focused and accomplish her goals, she said. “If I have trouble in a class, I come here before I go to office hours.”

The study groups reinforce concepts ahead of tests, said Aliya Kassam Pirbhai, a freshman mechanical engineering major. “We go over everything we need to know, the the-ory and the formulas,” she said. She moved from the Ivory Coast to San Diego in fall 2015. The Learning Communities program has helped her ease in to her new life, she said. “It’s very helpful.”

Math Matters

What equations do you need to build a ro-bot’s arm? Or MIT’s cheetah robot? What math do you need to run Tesla’s manufacturing

plant? Students tackle these questions — and more — in the new “Engineering Applications of Mathematics” module, part of the existing ENG 1-2-3 course series offered by the IDEA Student Center at the Jacobs school. Lectures are reinforced with hands-on labs, where stu-dents also learn to use MATLAB and Python. “It is well known that student success in engi-neering is highly dependent on student suc-cess in math, and perhaps more importantly, on the ability to connect and apply the math to the engineering,” said Michelle Ferrez, IDEA Student Center Director. “Our goal is to bet-ter prepare our engineering students for the type of learning and applications that are re-quired of them as undergraduate engineering students and to ensure that we provide the resources and opportunities for them to suc-ceed.”


Study Group

Student Success Initiative group study session

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