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Special Engineering Program Prepares Female Students for Rigors of the Profession

With a polished slide presentation, set to popular music, the 15 young women enrolled in Old Dominion University's Engineering Early Advantage Program (EEAP) said goodbye at a luncheon with staff and faculty, and prepared to say hello to their engineering studies later this month.

The EEAP, now in its ninth year, is designed to prepare aspiring female engineering students for the rigors of studying engineering at ODU. And in previous years, it's shown real results.

Program organizer Beverly Forbes, director of experiential education with the Career Management Center and its liaison to the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, told the young women during the farewell lunch that they had been the most spirited group she has seen go through the program.

"I feel very confident about the future of our college, because we've had such wonderful students here for the past four weeks," Forbes said.

For the future students themselves, the opportunity was invaluable.

Meeting other female freshman engineering students "makes you feel that you're not alone," said Jasmine Marshall, an 18-year-old graduate of Chesapeake's Western Branch High School. "You go to registration and orientation and you're the only girl."

"I was, too!" chimed in Shannon Johansen, an 18-year-old graduate of Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach.

"I thought (the EEAP) was great. I wasn't aware of so many things we need to know in the program, about internships, senior projects," Johansen said. "This will make me so much better prepared for the start of school."

Twenty-nine-year-old Janet Bivens, who was in the Navy for 11 years before coming to ODU on the GI Bill, said the interpersonal aspect of the Early Advantage program is just as important.

"I'm 10 years older than these girls. I'm not going to walk up to them and say, 'Hey, do you want a study buddy?'" Bivens laughed. "But now I feel like I've made a bunch of friends, girls I'll be able to say hello to in class, and share experiences."

The four-week program, which started July 13 and ended with the Aug. 10 luncheon, was designed to help admitted female freshmen become acclimated to the challenging, male-dominated environment they are about to enter.

The soon-to-be students attended 13 hours of seminars and workshops at various ODU engineering facilities and partner companies. The EEAP students created their own video game, built a computer and toured facilities, including the ODU Vision Lab and Lockheed Martin's modeling and simulation unit.

The EEAP is part of the engineering college's effort to attract and retain female students in the traditionally male-dominated field. Other outreach initiatives to prospective and current students include the Womengineers Day program, which also has existed for several years.

This article was posted on: August 11, 2009

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Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.