September 28, 2011

Ryckur Schuttler, a petroleum engineering junior, knows exactly what it’s like to be an overwhelmed, out-of-state freshman at LSU. Even though Schuttler’s parents forced him to attend the College of Engineering’s bridge camp, Encountering Engineering, he recognizes how important that experience was to becoming a successful engineering student and peer mentor.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Schuttler said. “It’s a very overwhelming process.”

A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Schuttler came to LSU thinking he wanted to major in chemical engineering. But after talking with a group of petroleum engineering professors at the camp, he realized he wanted to study petroleum engineering.

E2 did more for Schuttler than help him determine what engineering discipline he wanted to study. The camp prepared him for taking college-level courses, locating landmarks on campus, making friends and getting involved with the College of Engineering – all before his first day of classes at LSU.

As a camp participant, some of the things Schuttler enjoyed most about E2 were the annual team-building ropes challenge course, the friendships he developed with other participating engineering students and the "Business and Baseball" Luncheon at the Alex Box Stadium with guest speaker LSU Baseball Head Coach Paul Mainieri.

The impact E2 had on Schuttler didn’t end after his freshman year. He decided become an E2 peer mentor beginning his sophomore year.

“I had a blast at my first E2 camp and bonded with my own peer mentor, ” Schuttler said.

During this year’s E2, 135 freshman participants attended preparatory math, physics and engineering design courses hosted in on-campus classrooms, and enjoyed community-building activities with faculty and 55 upperclassmen peer mentors serving as either team or teaching session leaders. 

Schuttler had the opportunity serve as mentor to group of petroleum engineering students this summer.

“I felt like I really got to influence them for the better,” Schuttler said. 

Interactive class lectures, time and money-management strategy sessions, an engineering design project competition, mentor-led ‘treasure’ hunts for degree program flowcharts and tours through engineering facilities also helped this year’s freshman to adjust to their new college life.

Besides mentoring incoming freshmen, mentors have also proved valuable to providing recommendations for how to improve the camps. Feedback from previous freshman camp participants has been translated into a transition from faculty-administered to peer mentor-led camp sessions, including the Seven Habits of Highly Effective College Students presentation.

E2 is a project of the CoE STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP), a project supported by the National Science Foundation and established with the motivation to increase the retention of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students at LSU.

The camp is designed to expose students to both the academic and social cultures of LSU. Schuttler and the other peer mentors introduced students to the LSU Union, the Rec Center, Middleton library, and even the intricate building design of Patrick F. Taylor Hall. Students were also introduced to core engineering concepts.

“As engineers, falling walls are never good things,” physics professor Dr. Raymond Chastain told E2 students in a discussion on the importance of gravity and plumb lines. Chastain tossed a tennis ball during a preparatory physics class to help demonstrate Newton’s 2nd law to the E2 students.

Similar to Schuttler’s personal experience, camp participants’ responses to this years camp were positive. For example, one student said, “Awesome experience! I feel more prepared for the first week of classes.”

E2 participants were asked to evaluate camp activities on post-camp feedback forms. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, participants rated the overall experience a 4.54. Out of all camp activities, interaction with peer mentors received the highest rating, with a score of 4.72.

“E2 helped me feel sure about my major,” another 2011 camp participant explained.

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