By Hailey Henderlight and Randall Brown
More than 100 guests came to the UT campus on March 4 for the Women in Engineering Program’s ConNEXTion Day, an event designed to share opportunities for future students throughout the college. Women admitted to the college made connections with other future Engineering Vols, met current students and faculty, and got a sneak peek at what they can expect when they walk into their first Engineering Fundamentals (EF) course in their first year at the college.
ConNEXTion Day takes a hands-on approach to allow admitted high school women to get a feel for what engineering is about and the opportunities they will have as an engineering major, helping them feel a sense of belonging from the moment they step onto campus. Several activities offered students the chance to connect with the engineering community and make friends before starting their first year.
Visiting students worked with McKensie Nelms, an EF graduate teaching assistant, to try out some of the equipment they will use in their engineering studies. Students worked in groups using block code to program Sphero RVRs to go through an obstacle course successfully.
“The students enjoyed collaborating with their teams to build the program and had the opportunity to ask questions they had about college,” said Nelms. “They had a lot of fun, and there was so much interaction during the whole session.”
Parents and students heard from Dean Matthew Mench, Interim Associate Dean Toby Boulet and Assistant Dean Jeremy Kirk about the college’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the levels of support the students receive when pursuing engineering degrees at UT. Women from the engineering faculty shared a portion of their engineering journey and welcomed students to the college during breakfast.
Students and parents also learned about maximizing potential financial aid, internship support from the Engineering Professional Practice Office, and how the Student Success Office helps guide students transitioning to college.
Students learned about the advantages offered by the Engage Living and Learning Community and the different skills and engineering disciplines they will be introduced to in EF classes.
“I would really like to highlight the amazing work of the undergraduate students helping me with this event,” said Nelms. “They truly made a connection with the incoming students, and I think they made the biggest difference in the success of the event.”
Student organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, Alpha Omega Epsilon STEM Sorority, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the National Society of Black Engineers talked with students about their resources and options to get involved beyond their engineering courses.
Parents and students also had the opportunity to ask current students questions about their favorite parts about being a UT Vol, things they would have done differently, why they chose their major, and many other questions.
“I truly think college is an incredible experience, and a huge part of that is building a wonderful community of people to surround you,” said Nelms. “I hope this event, and the EF session, gave these young women a chance to start building that community for themselves.”