Aug. 7, 2020
Freshmen already showcasing skills through virtual self-paced seminar
MSU Engineering Assistant Dean Theo Caldwell expected that the nature of this fall’s 1,600 incoming freshmen would be resilient, but 170 of them are already ENGaged in a way he wasn’t expecting.
More than 10 percent of the entering Spartan Engineers are participating in ENGage, a free virtual self-paced seminar that offers a collection of online modules providing academic preparation in math, science, and computer science engineering.
Ciera Trice is the program director of ENGage.
“We wanted our incoming students to feel connected to the College of Engineering,” Trice said. “ENGage is an optional, self-paced, interactive program that offers students feedback, one-on-one support, and a chance to work with instructors to receive clarification on the key concepts surrounding these various STEM subjects.”
Math modules cover algebra, functions, trigonometry, and calculus. Science modules include introductory biology content. Computer science modules cover content relevant to CSE 231, a course necessary for students majoring in certain engineering disciplines to successfully complete toward their admission requirements to the College of Engineering.
In addition to academic content, ENGage provides student success resources covering topics such as study skills, time management, physical and mental health, and well-being, she continued. The program is staffed by instructors and teaching assistants, who offer Zoom office hours for individual questions. Students access the coursework at their convenience, day or night.
“It helps our new Spartans familiarize themselves with campus resources and the success strategies we have outlined for our first-year students,” she added.
Entering freshman Jenni Aubin from Rhode Island said ENGage is giving her a base knowledge in the offered subjects, especially computer science.
“Without this course, I doubt I would have spent the time trying to teach myself computer science,” she said. “It is nice knowing I have a little bit of background before taking an actual computer science class on campus.”
She said her favorite part of ENGage is the communication between the instructors and the class though Piazza. She and her classmates can post a problem or question on Piazza and a peer or professor answers it.
“We had an answer within minutes. It’s nice knowing there was always someone there for us to reach out to,” Aubin added.
Ishwari Kapale was excited by the prospects of her first MSU academic course.
The entering freshman from Kolhapur, India, said the course content and structure of the modules are providing a strong foundation for her future MSU classes.
“Since ENGage has three very interesting and my personally favorite subjects -- I was super stoked! It shapes your ability to make conclusions and give independent opinions.
"The programming assignments were very gripping because they demanded a lot of effort, dedication, thought process, and effective bug fixing, of course," she added.
For Gabriel Sotelo, it was his first look inside MSU coursework.
“Some weeks ago, an invitation reached my inbox featuring a preparatory course. I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to get myself more-than-ready and refresh concepts, too, before I started classes,” the freshman from Arequipa, Peru, said.
“The fact of being a self-paced and mostly self-assessed course makes it great. You establish your own deadlines and it is up to you to take out the most of the rich material given. It is also not necessary to do things that you feel extremely comfortable with, so again, this course is molded to your willingness and necessities,” he added.
ENGage was offered to all the 1,600 incoming students as a no-credit, no-fee virtual freshman seminar. Participants began on July 6. The program runs through Aug. 14. Grades do not count toward a student’s GPA and will not be recorded on their transcript. Among the 170 participants, more than half are interested in the college’s two largest academic programs – computer science and mechanical engineering.
Study aids include notes, overviews, picture images and the relevant vocabulary for specific subjects. There are sample problems so students have a chance to practice and apply the knowledge, and there’s an answer key at the end. There’s a fun online resource scavenger hunt, a self-care quiz, and Real Talk Student Panel Zoom sessions.
The program is hosted by the Office of Engineering Inclusion and Diversity, which is directed by Caldwell.
He said the next cohort of Spartan Engineers are a generation unlike any before them.
“These are the 9-1-1 babies, born following the attacks on our country on Sept. 11, 2001. They have experienced incredible adversity – school shootings and now the national drama of a pandemic that moved them out of their familiar schools and into remote learning virtually overnight.
“A lot of our students finished high school in unique and challenging circumstances so we knew we needed to do something for the entire entering freshman class so that if they wanted to engage they could,” Caldwell explained.
“These students have been able to take a punch and keep swinging and I’m proud of them for that. This group is incredible and I think that means we’ll have strong, empowered, driven students who are determined to make changes to the world so no one else has to endure what they have.”