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Engineering Early Advantage Program Proving Popular Among Incoming Female Students

Two words in the title of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology's Engineering Early Advantage Program (EEAP) are particularly pertinent - "early" and "advantage."

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium-funded program, now in its 11th year, is designed to help prepare admitted ODU female engineering students for the rigor of their studies and, ultimately, of the traditionally male-dominated profession.

This year's four-week program started Monday, July 11. The 15 participants toured the NASA Langley Research Center on July 13, and will visit the Norfolk engineering firm WR Systems on Aug. 1.

Program organizer Beverly Forbes, director of experiential education with the ODU Career Management Center and its liaison to the Batten College, said interest in the program is at its highest level ever. "We had 27 applicants, which is the highest number in the history of the program," she said. "This is the strongest group academically as well, as the selection process was so competitive this year."

The EEAP is part of the college's efforts to attract and retain female students in the traditionally male-dominated engineering field. Many "graduates" of the EEAP have gone on to be academic stars in the Batten College, and are now holding prestigious engineering positions, helping fill a need in the local workforce.

"This program makes so much sense for a number of reasons," said Batten College Dean Oktay Baysal. "It helps our retention rate for female admitted engineering students significantly."

In fact, female engineering students who go through the EEAP not only graduate at a higher rate than female engineers who don't participate in the program, but their graduation rate also is higher than average for all students in the college, Forbes noted. "We're so proud of this program, and every year we're proud of these girls," she said.

As part of the EEAP, students will spend two weeks at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, and another week working in the university's new Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Engineering. Using the virtual-world program Second Life, they'll also take a virtual tour of a local technology employer's location.

Each week, the students will have lunch with ODU faculty members, administrators and former EEAP participants. The students will meet with Dean Baysal and Provost Carol Simpson. And at the end of the program, the soon-to-be engineering students will produce a final presentation, incorporating engineering concepts in describing what they learned.

Forbes said the camaraderie formed by the young women as they learn side-by-side for four weeks carries over into their full-time studies. "Especially for students who may be from far away, the EEAP provides an opportunity to make connections, meet friendly faces and form friendships that can continue as they embark on their studies together."

This article was posted on: July 18, 2011

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