This year, an estimated 800 students will join the College of Engineering here at the University of Arkansas. Some of these students will be lucky enough to have a good idea of what discipline of engineering they wish to study. Others will be still trying to decide which field to enter. Here at the university, the College of Engineering is dedicated to providing every new engineering student with the maximum range opportunity to experience the nine different degrees it offers. This is accomplished through the Freshman Engineering Program.
The Freshman Engineering Program, or FEP for short, is designed to provide a baseline experience for all new engineering students. Students are not allowed to officially declare their major until Decision Day, which occurs in the spring semester. Before then, everyone is considered a “freshman engineer”. FEP is a multifaceted tool that gives students a diverse range of routes to improving socially as a young individual, academically as a new college student, and professionally as a career seeker.
Part of the baseline experience offered by FEP is the common curriculum. Each freshman engineer will take four hours, two per semester, of introduction to engineering coursework along with their other classes. Part of the requirements for these general engineering (GNEG) courses is attending “Informational Departmental Sessions.” During these sessions, the nine departments get to showcase their degree opportunities in an attempt to recruit new students to their program. Other requirements of GNEG classes include attending a resume workshop and a mock interview. Honors GNEG courses are offered for students who have previous experience with engineering coursework and/or want to get a jump on their Honor’s College thesis by starting their research almost a year early.
One of the best aspects of FEP is the peer mentoring program. Each new student is paired with an upperclassman within the College of Engineering at the beginning of the fall semester. This upperclassman acts as a guide to both what it means to be an engineering student and a college student as a whole. During both the fall and spring semesters, the freshman engineers meet with their peer mentors once a week for half an hour. The peer mentors teach a short lesson, interject personal experience to fill holes in the curriculum, and then answer any questions the mentee might have. My peer mentor was the most helpful person I met during my first year in college. She helped me with extracurricular activities and building my resume more so than anything else. Her excellent example of leadership inspired me to apply to the peer mentoring program, and I am glad to say that I will be one of the 81 peer mentors aiding students in their transition into college life come this fall.
More information about the Freshman Engineering Program can be found at http://freshman-engineering.uark.edu/index.php. If your student is going to be a freshman engineer, I urge you to follow the link and inform them on the numerous features FEP has to offer them. The best lesson to be learned in college is how to help yourself.