April 5, 2011

Bright-eyed and full of energy, more than thirty high school students participated in the College of Engineering’s (CoE) Shadow Day, hosted by the Office for Diversity Programs. The event offered minority high school juniors and seniors from Louisiana and Texas a glimpse into college life and the field of engineering.

“This program showcases and promotes the College of Engineering to students who may
not have had the opportunity to experience a day on a college campus,” said Vaneshette Henderson, pre-college program coordinator, CoE Office for Diversity Programs.

The event consisted of several activities designed to give participants a crash course in a day in the life of an engineering student. Participants and their parents attended classes and panel discussions, met with engineering professors and counselors, and experienced LSU college life. 

“Programs, such as Shadow Day, are important for the College of Engineering because they demonstrate the commitment to increasing underrepresented students in the College and diversity in the engineering workforce," said Henderson.

During the panel discussion, diversity ambassadors and alumni stressed the importance of internships, scholarships and effective study habits. The panelists emphasized the benefits of summer internships, above all. Internships, they said, reinforce classroom learning, help determine engineering likes and dislikes and may secure permanent job employment after graduation. 

 “It’s really important for high school students to get their feet wet and see what it is like to be on a college campus,” said Gaynelle Brown, a 2009 CoE alumna and one of the event’s panelists. “Getting this head start is pretty big.”

Victoria Johnson, a junior at East Baton Rouge Laboratory Academy, is interested in chemical engineering and views LSU as her top choice among universities. 

 “LSU is very diverse and has a good engineering program,” she said. “[Shadow Day] has been a great experience. I got to find out more about college life, the classes and the professors.”

In an effort to increase engineering awareness and the LSU College of Engineering diversity recruitment and retention efforts, the LSU College of Engineering diversity ambassadors encourage K-12 school students to become engineers by visiting schools in the Baton Rouge community. Diversity ambassadors serve as role models, mentors and tutors while conducting engineering demonstrations, hands-on activities and discipline talks.

“When you take the students around campus and into the classes, they see that college is not as intimidating as it seems. Plus, it shows them how exciting college life can be,” said diversity ambassador Awonu Lekia, junior, petroleum engineering. “The students that shadowed me attended my physics class, and I had them take notes. They actually learned something. That shows them if you pay attention and take notes, it’s easier to learn.”

The CoE’s Office for Diversity Programs facilitates and enhances the College’s efforts to increase participation and graduation rates of women and underrepresented minority students, as well as recruit and retain high-quality women and underrepresented minority faculty.

“The Office for Diversity Programs works with students to provide underrepresented and underserved students with social and academic support, as well as with career preparation,” said Kelly Rusch, associate dean, Research and Diversity Programs. “We are committed to offering students a welcoming environment and a strong support network to help them excel in engineering. Shadow Day is one program offered by the Office for Diversity Programs that allows us to foster relationships with high school students during their college decision-making process.”

For more information about the College of Engineering’s Office for Diversity Programs, click here.


Article by Aariel Charbonnet, College of Engineering Public Relations Graduate Assistant

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