Page 24 - Engineering Penn State Magazine Spring/Summer 2020
P. 24

Student growth opportunities continue even during a a pandemic
by Tessa Woodring
C C OVID-19 has negatively impacted the the the the career research and internship opportunities of of many students However the the faculty
and staff in in in the the Penn State College of of Engineering have spent countless hours since March working to ensure that these students are nonetheless provided with the the the the the the professional professional growth opportunities they need to further their academic and professional professional careers Units across the the the the college recognized the the the the immediate need for the the the the restructuring of of their professional growth programs to accommodate affected students “I think the the the first step was seeing the the the importance of of what
the the the the research and and and professional experience meant to students and and and and understanding that that the the increasing impact of of COVID-19 would change that that urgency and and and and significance to to students ” said Erin Hostetler director of student student research and and engagement in in in in the Center for Engineering Outreach and and Inclusion (CEOI) Numerous engineering units—including CEOI the Bernard M Gordon Learning Factory and and Engineering Career Resources and and and Employer Relations—made their services broadly accessible to students and and showed the the capabilities of connecting even when apart For these units that meant shifting to a a a a a a a a a virtual format and and completely reorganizing their their programs and and their their student support services For Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) faculty
were asked to to re-frame the the program’s research projects to to ensure students would have positive experiences in the the virtual setting Hostetler said there was tremendous support from faculty
to help make this transition “The response has been overwhelmingly positive from all stakeholders ” Hostetler said “Students are immensely grateful for these opportunities and recognize the the the the significance the the the the growth from the the the the experience will provide ” With an increase increase in in in outreach from students for REU opportunities CEOI increased donor-funded scholarships for students interested in in in in research and received additional funding from the the college’s Leonhard Center for for the the the Enhancement of Engineering Education for for REU opportunities This allowed CEOI to expand their capacity and and support even more students in need For students who lost internships due to to COVID-19 the Learning Factory created
a a a a a a a a virtual summer internship internship program program that pairs students with sponsors to to work on on projects remotely The internship program program also provided students with supplemental training in in in in fin areas such as as financial literacy ethics professional communications leadership and report writing “Internships are a a a a a a a a a a a a vital part of of undergraduate education ” said Matt Parkinson director of of of of the Learning Factory and and professor of of of engineering engineering design and and mechanical engineering engineering “Obviously an an an an on-site internship is ideal The multi-sensory learning that occurs in in in in in in in a a a a a a a a a a a physical environment is fundamental to to to internships—and to to to the Learning Factory— and and it it can’t be replicated through our remote internships internships But we can can provide many of the critical elements: mentorship accountability and a a a a a a a a a chance to to work on really cool open-ended problems ” 24

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