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Female Freshmen Get Acclimated to Engineering Profession in Specialized ODU Program

Twenty female freshmen admitted to Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology will have an opportunity to meet a real-life role model this week.

On Thursday, Aug. 5, the students will take a tour of WRSystems Inc. in Norfolk, a leading provider of strategic business consulting services and products for industry and government, where they will meet Christyl C. Johnson, White House director of science and technology, and executive director of the National Science & Technology Council.

The tour has been scheduled as part of the Batten College's Early Engineering Advantage Program (EEAP) - a summer program ODU created to help acclimate admitted female engineering students to the traditionally male-dominated profession of engineering.

Johnson, from Virginia Beach, came to the White House position from NASA, which she joined in 1990, designing and building laser systems for remote sensors at Langley Research Center. She has also served with NASA as associate director for exploratory missions in the Office of Earth Science and deputy chief engineer for Program Integration and Operations in the Office of the Chief Engineer.

Johnson will speak with the EEAP students about her background and career path, and offer advice about a future in the engineering professions.

The EEAP program is credited with helping the Batten College have the largest percentage of female engineering students of any school in Virginia.

"We're very proud of the Early Engineering Advantage Program," said Oktay Baysal, dean of the college.

"Local businesses like WRSystems are incredibly welcoming to our students. And to have an experience like meeting Christyl Johnson can only inspire the young women who are entering the Batten College this fall."

The EEAP program, which began in 2001, offers incoming female freshman engineering students an opportunity to learn about ODU's engineering programs and engineering professions. The EEAP participants will tour WRSystems' facilities, laboratories, and general operations - offering insight into what it's like to be an engineer.

The ODU program has a record 20 students this summer. The Batten College is funding five of the participants in the program, while the Virginia Space Grant Consortium is paying the fee for 15 EEAP campers. The program had 25 applicants this year, also a record.

Other field trips planned for the EEAP campers include a visit to the Lockheed Martin Center for Innovation on Aug. 12.

The students actually "toured" the same facility in July via the Second Life program, an Internet-based, user-created 3D virtual world community, visiting the center virtually using avatars they created.

"Now that the girls have seen the virtual Lockheed Martin, it will be interesting to see what they think when they see the real thing," said the Career Management Center's Beverly Forbes, director of experiential education and liaison to the Batten College, and director of the EEAP program.

This article was posted on: August 3, 2010

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