July 5, 2011

With tutoring, homework help and study sessions literally a couple of doors down the hall every weeknight, the Engineering Residential College (ERC) is a popular option among freshmen LSU engineering and construction management students.

The ERC opened in 2007 in West Laville Hall but relocated to the Residential College Complex in Spring 2008. It is among the most vibrant and successful learning communities on campus equipped with an in-house computer lab, classrooms, a library, study rooms and modern living amenities. Through academic and professional opportunities, the ERC provides students with multiple avenues for success in the College of Engineering (CoE). 

“Everything we do aims to fulfill ERC’s two main goals,” said John Scalzo, ERC rector. “We want to improve retention rates and improve our students’ GPAs.”

The interplay of communal living and student learning creates a unique “synergy” that fosters personal and professional growth among residents, said Scalzo. The benefits of living and learning with classmates are numerous.   

“If you are an engineering student and want to succeed at LSU, the ERC is where you should live,” said civil engineering senior, Samantha Dupaquier, an ERC resident assistant since 2009. “There is tutoring almost every day of the week right in the hall, and there are often review sessions before tests as well. Where better to live than with other girls and guys going through the same exact thing? It's a support system.”

Freshmen ERC residents are scheduled into the same sections of math, chemistry, physics and English. This facilitates a community of like-minded, hard-working peers who rely on each other for classroom and extracurricular support. “When there’s a big physics exam, the whole building is studying for it,” said Scalzo.

“If you ever needed help on homework or studying for tests, there was always someone working on the same subject as you,” said civil engineering junior Adam Catanzaro, a former ERC resident. “Since we were all in the same classes, it felt like we were all going through the same struggles of homework and tests, and it made it easier to have friends going through the same classes as you.”    

ERC residents also have access to supplemental course instructors who visit the residential college multiple evenings per week. Chemistry, physics and math teachers provide additional academic assistance to residents. Offering supplemental instruction in these core pre-engineering classes equips ERC freshmen with the academic training and study skills necessary to excel in their engineering curricula. In addition, counselors visit the ERC at midterm to advise students on their class scheduling for the following semester.

The ERC serves as a hub for activities and programs hosted by student chapters of professional engineering and construction societies, as well as corporate-sponsored events and internship opportunities. Last spring, representatives from BASF Corporation, one of the world’s leading chemical companies, met with a small group of residents and hired three freshmen for the company’s summer internship program.

The ERC is more than an academically-driven living facility. It eases the transition into college life for freshmen. Residents are classmates and dorm mates, a unique dynamic that creates a home away from home for students.

“By and large, we get residents connected to a new family that they can identify with and that allows them to relax in the sense that it eases some concerns and anxiety,” said Warren Waggenspack, associate dean for academic programs, CoE. “The ERC helps get this group adjusted to college life at LSU.”

Chemical engineering senior, Lane Carrier, has lived in the ERC since her freshman year, first as a resident and now as a resident assistant. She regards her experience living in the Engineering Residential College as invaluable.

“The chance to learn and work with other engineers has been a great experience. Help with homework was always just down the hall,” said Carrier. “The opportunities offered by the ERC are second to none.  Looking back on my freshman year, I can say with confidence that I definitely made the right choice.”

The ERC is accomplishing both of its objectives. According to ERC data, the retention rate in engineering and construction management after one full year in the ERC is 77 percent. Among engineering and construction management freshmen who did not reside in the ERC, the retention rate is 69 percent.

Similarly, data indicates improved academic performance in engineering among ERC residents. The average GPA of ERC residents is 3.05. For non-residents, the average GPA is 2.93.

With construction of the third residential college slated for completion in the fall of 2012, the ERC is expanding to fulfill its growing demand. With a typical 70-100 student waiting list, the expansion is much anticipated as it will house almost half of the incoming engineering and construction management students and increase student retention in the College.

ERC residents must be incoming freshmen who declare an engineering/construction management major or engineering/construction management undecided, and who are enrolled in college trigonometry (MATH 1022, 1023) or calculus (MATH 1550 or higher). To learn more about the ERC, visit www.lsu.edu/housing or email reslife@lsu.edu.

For a tour of the ERC, click here.

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 Article by Aariel Charbonnet, College of Engineering public relations graduate assistant, carcen6@lsu.edu



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