Jeff Bates

Jeff Bates

Materials Science and Engineering/College of Engineering

2011-2012

Building a New Class to Help
Students Explore Majors in Engineering

Faculty Mentor: Milind Deo - Chemical Engineering/College of Engineering

 

The College of Engineering has created a new course, ENGIN 1022 Survey of Engineering. This class is offered to all students who would like to explore majors within the College of Engineering. Furthermore, this class may become a requirement for all entering freshman students. The course was designed to introduce students to each of the majors by highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of engineering. The instructor talks about engineering and how problems in industry and academia are approached from different vantage points. The course is taught each week by a different professor or industry professional, which focuses on career opportunities available in each specific discipline. This class was piloted during fall semester of 2011, and the structure is evolving to meet the needs of entering students, who may have chosen a major or who may be exploring their options. A survey was distributed to students in the class to help determine the format that would best help them choose an engineering major. This class will be redesigned based on the results of the survey to better meet the objectives of the course.

 

Many entering freshman students have not made a definite decision about their major as soon as they come to the University of Utah, and need to explore different options. If students wish to study engineering, they will find that they are behind in their studies if they take time to explore. There are eight majors in engineering, each with a structured series of courses required during specific semesters of a student's undergraduate education. Lateral movement among engineering majors is not easy because of the timeline of the coursework. Many times, students who chose engineering and get frustrated end up leaving engineering altogether because their major was not what they had hoped it would be. Often these students realize that they were in the wrong engineering major, but because the coursework is so specific, and they have spent so much time, money and effort, they choose something that will allow them to graduate faster or they choose not to continue with their education. Aside from this group, some students know that they would like to study engineering, but are not sure which type of engineering offers the career they are hoping to attain. The College of Engineering has created a course that allows students to explore majors within engineering, and will help students create more realistic expectations about the coursework and future career options.

 

This class will either help students choose a major, or help validate their decision. In addition, the course could serve as a model for other exploratory and introductory courses at the University of Utah. Other colleges and departments could implement a similar version of the class that will allow students to explore other majors that may be interdisciplinary or that fall within the same college or department. This class will increase retention because students will have exposure to engineering early on and they will be better informed about their major. Furthermore, if students choose to move to another major in engineering, they will be able to make the decision earlier. Finally, when students begin taking classes within their major, they will have a better understanding of the end result of their education.

 

Jeff Bates - TA Scholars Poster