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A sense of community

Just before the semester’s beginning, twenty first-year women engineers explored campus and the fundamentals of engineering while meeting their peers during the Lehigh Women Engineers (LWE) PreLUsion. Lehigh University hosts many different PreLUsion events, or pre-orientation programs, that enable new students to explore an interest with upperclassmen and faculty.


During the LWE PreLUsion, first-year students interacted with the upperclasswomen in engineering, had dinner with women engineering faculty and industry leaders, and learned more than a few tricks to make the best of their first Lehigh semester. They also found out about additional opportunities available through Lehigh’s chapters of the Society of Women Engineers, and of Women in Science and Engineering, during an ice cream social.


“I didn’t think it was going to be this much fun -- getting hands-on with different disciplines and learning about other forms of engineering,” says Isabel Amaya ‘19.


PreLUsion kicked off with a scavenger hunt around Asa Packer and Mountaintop that had the first-year students running between buildings and exploring Lehigh’s history. Cathy Fletcher ‘17, PreLUsion mentor and environmental engineering major, says, “I think it is a good way to get used to all of the engineering areas of campus, so you can get familiar with it before all of the other students arrive, things gets crowded, and you feel like you don’t know where to go.”


First year students were able to learn and apply basic engineering principles while building a marble roller coaster, participating in an egg drop competition, and building weight-bearing marshmallow-toothpick towers. The PreLUsion event had access to the Additive Manufacturing labs in Wilbur Powerhouse, where they learned about design and 3D printing while manufacturing personalized Lehigh keychains -- a resource most students do not learn about until higher-level classes, even though they are available to all Lehigh students.


Students also learned about river flow dynamics at the Hydraulics Lab in Fritz with Professor Jerry Lennon. Each team built a boat to calculate the velocity and flow rate in two different tanks, and learned about the engineering process and importance of redesign.


Fletcher wished that she had access to this PreLUsion when she entered Lehigh, because she was very confused when she first got to campus, as many are trying to find classrooms on the first day of class.


“These are friends that will not only be with them in a social way, but also help them academically throughout their career,” Haley Gleeson ‘18, mentor and Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) major, concurs. “Starting to make these bonds early will just help them grow, learn how to work in teams, and become part of the whole group of women engineers on campus.”


Mentor and electrical engineering student Suzanne Scheckenback ‘16 adds, “It’s important for young women engineers to form a sense of community. When I was starting in engineering, I was really intimidated because I thought that it was mostly men, and I think to have a community of not only their peers, but upperclassmen and faculty, that they can reach out to is really important so that do not feel alone in entering this field.”


Brielle Gemberling ‘18, mentor and IBE major, recalls a ‘reality check’ in her first year of college. “I came in a little too overconfident in my skills and what I thought I could do,” she says. “This preLUsion gently reminds them that college is going to be a very different experience than high school. But you’re going to meet a lot of people who know more than you do, and who can actually help you.”


Incoming engineer Grace Kim ‘19 agrees. “I met a lot of people my age, a lot of first years who I can hang out with later in the year,” she concludes. “But I also met a lot of older students that I now know, and have phone numbers in case I need some help.”

-Amber Schrum '16 is a student-writer with the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

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