by Public Relations
Five Cedarville University professors presented at the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education’s High Impact Learning Conference in October. The professors shared how Cedarville University is preparing its engineering and business students for the workplace.
Service Projects Contribute to the Success of Female Engineering Students
Vicky Fang, Ph.D. presented on her work as advisor to Cedarville’s chapter of the Society for Women Engineers (SWE). Fang’s presentation, “Service Projects Contribute to the Success of the Female Students in Engineering at Cedarville University,” reflected on the work she did to establish the group in response to alarming retention rates among female engineers both at Cedarville and nationally.
When Fang became a member of the engineering faculty in 2004, she was the only female faculty member. During that year there were only 10 female students enrolled in engineering majors out of approximately 350 engineering students. At the time it was difficult to be a female engineer. Now, Cedarville’s SWE chapter helps to get female students involved in engineering from the start.
The group connects female engineering students through mentoring services and work projects. Older female students form relationships with and serve as counselors to younger students.
“Our supporting program creates a loving, caring and encouraging learning community for all the female engineering students,” Fang said. “It eliminates the isolation problem and builds the girls’ confidence in their study and career.”
SWE has participated in several service projects since its inception including raising funds to help the Miami Valley Women’s Center, Christmas caroling at a nursing home, raising funds to buy Christmas gifts for homeless children, giving engineering orientation presentations to a local elementary school and participating in the Games 4 Girls competition (at which the group took second place in two consecutive years).
According to Fang, because of the community building done throughout the program, there are 37 women with a declared engineering or computer science major as of this fall.
The Value of Competition Teams in Senior Design Projects
Gerald Brown, Ph.D. presented on “The Value of Competition Teams in Engineering Senior Design Projects." His presentation detailed the engineering department’s senior design project experience.
At Cedarville, senior design projects are part of a capstone course two semesters in length, designed to develop and demonstrate mastery at the undergraduate level. According to Brown, senior design projects in engineering challenge students to research and apply principles above and beyond what they’ve learned throughout their course of study to address complex engineering problems. Such problem solving skills help engineers to prepare for the workplace.
Some senior design projects are also entered into engineering competitions. This adds an additional level of necessary thoroughness and urgency to the project. In the past, projects have included work on a hybrid drive system for Cedarville’s high efficiency vehicle Sting, work on Cedarville’s Solar Splash solar-electric boat team and design work on Cedarville’s Aero Design team. Each project allows students to experience time, knowledge and equipment pressures that a competition provides while gaining valuable technical and professional skills.
“There is an immense gap between ‘mostly understood and nearly working’ and ‘problem solved and solution implemented’ that can only be learned by experience,” Brown said. “In short, engineering projects are great for student learning, but engineering competition projects crank up the learning yet another notch, because of the intensity required to finish and have it working sufficiently well to compete by the deadline.”
An Improved Introductory Business Course
Jeff Guernsey, Ann Rich and Sue Terkelsen presented “Learning by Doing: Improving an Introductory Business Course.” Their presentation focused on the importance of getting new students to understand the curriculum and the career choices available in their particular field. Cedarville does this through introductory courses for new business students.
The Business Profession course gives students a basic introduction to the field of business. Students look at major areas of business and are introduced to most of the faculty in the department through lectures on various careers in the field.
The program’s main project challenges students to work in groups to come up with business plans for hypothetical businesses. The end of the semester sees each group presenting their plan to a group of outside business professionals. Eventually a winner is chosen from amongst the proposed plans. This project helps the students to tie their classroom knowledge in with real-world planning.
“For students who are declared in one of the business majors, the course serves as an introduction to the field of business and to the department,” Terkelsen said. “For students who are undecided, it helps them to get a flavor of what the field of business is about and gives them an introduction to the majors that are part of the business department.”
Cedarville University attracts 3,300 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.