Engineering orientation an essential experience for students

The sessions, held in northern Arizona, give first-year students an invaluable introduction to ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, fellow aspiring engineers

September 8, 2022

Jennifer Wong was close to deciding she would skip E2 before beginning engineering studies at Arizona State University in 2018.

“I knew absolutely no one who was going to be there. I was a little scared and I didn’t know what to expect,” Wong says of the pre-fall semester orientation experience that has been offered for the past 14 years to first-year students in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. An ASU student prepares to walk across a slack rope as fellow students look on. Fun and games are a key part of the E2 experience for first-year students in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. They participate in a variety of challenges and competitions aimed at developing teamwork and problem-solving skills, and fostering a sense of camaraderie and community among the groups of aspiring engineers. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

She can’t recall why she changed her mind and went to one of the three-day, two-night sessions at a large campground in the forested hills near Prescott, Arizona. But she does remember leaving with more than a few new friends.

In the four years since then, while earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, earning recognition as the program’s Outstanding Graduate and beginning the pursuit of a master’s degree in the program, “I have completely lost track of how many E2 sessions I’ve been involved in,” Wong says.

She has served as a lead E2 assistant, a student counselor and a peer mentor, among related roles that helped her develop leadership skills. Now a management intern with the Fulton Schools’ Office of Academic and Student Affairs Operations, Wong has recently earned opportunities to work as part of the professional staff that plans and facilitates E2 sessions.

“I think of E2 as an essential part of a student’s journey in the Fulton Schools,” Wong says. “I have rarely heard of students regretting going to E2, but I have heard plenty of students who regret not going to E2.”

Tami Coronella, director of student success and engagement in the Fulton Schools, oversees E2 and echoes Wong’s outlook on the most effective asset the experience can provide students.

“The most important thing for students is learning how to form meaningful relationships,” Coronella says. “At the core of what we do is creating a sense of community and belonging among our students.”

“Making connections is vital to students’ success in college, and it’s really the big reason why we do E2,” says James Collofello, the Fulton Schools vice dean of academic and student affairs and a professor of computer science and software engineering.

ASU students make a pitchfork sign with their hands.

Students at the E2 site in the woodlands near Prescott, Arizona, can often be seen with unusual-looking contraptions pieced together with common objects and materials. They are the result of various E2 activities designed to help stoke students’ imaginations, technical creativity and collaboration skills. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Over the years, Collofello has seen students who first met at E2 now return as Fulton Schools alumni to volunteer and rekindle the camaraderie they first experienced.

Coronella says it is especially important for alumni to spend time with students. But she also wants to see even more Fulton Schools faculty and staff volunteer to help with E2.

“That’s how students are going to connect with people who can guide them, help them progress and overcome challenges,” Coronella says. “That’s how we will reinforce the E2 culture and make it even more effective.”

E2 is also increasingly essential because the Fulton Schools continue to draw growing numbers of international students, many of whom may need more help learning to foster relationships with faculty and fellow students.

“I’ve seen the benefits of encouraging students to form the support networks and peer relationships that are so crucial to thriving in college,” says Sarah Stabenfeldt, a Fulton Schools associate professor of biomedical engineering, one of many faculty members who have addressed students at E2 sessions.

There are definite benefits for first-year students who take advantage of E2 opportunities to meet the faculty members who will be their teachers, and talk to more experienced ASU students who are studying to earn degrees in various branches of engineering and related fields, Stabenfeldt says.

Almost 1,900 first-year students attended one of the 11 in-person E2 sessions this year, while about 450 attended virtual sessions.

Ira A. Fulton addresses new ASU engineering students at an E2 session

Ira A. Fulton has addressed students at numerous E2 sessions over the years. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Like E2 participants in previous years, many got career advice and encouragement from the Fulton Schools’ namesake and leading benefactor, Ira A. Fulton.

At a recent E2 session, Fulton urged students to go boldly forward in pursuit of their professional aspirations.

“Don’t wait until later to get involved in research and join student organizations,” Fulton told them.

Research the areas of engineering and technology that are projected to have growing impacts on the world — like artificial intelligence and machine learning — and learn about them, he said.

A bachelor’s degree will get you a job, but a graduate or doctoral degree will make you a highly valued expert, he added while recommending that students consider enrolling in one of the Fulton Schools’ 4+1 accelerated master’s degree programs.

Fulton Schools students’ achievements and success will be “the return on my investment,” Fulton concluded.

Amid the career advisement and introduction to the higher education ecosystem, E2 is designed to also immerse students in an environment of camaraderie and fun.

Manushri Muruga Kumar, a first-year computer science student, says she liked learning about the Fulton Schools and its myriad educational strengths. But she would also tell new students to take part in E2 for the karaoke singalongs, the nighttime campfire gatherings — at which s’mores are a featured menu item — and for the calming, cooling freshness of the E2 site’s woodsy terrain.

As an out-of-state computer science and software engineering student, Naomi Remili accomplished her E2 mission to meet new people.

“I made a group of friends who are all in similar majors or the same major and we have been hanging out,” Remili says. “It made the move here from a different state much easier. It’s really helpful in adjusting to college life.”

She also liked the campfire gatherings and the s’mores.

Seth Wiley, a senior in the automotive systems engineering program, had a role as an E2 student lead and peer mentor, which can involve helping set up the E2 campsite and getting the first-year students checked into their sessions. He also helped with constructing an escape room feature, 3D printing elements for group games, and the filming and editing of E2 media productions.

“E2 was a highly rewarding experience. Seeing genuine excitement from the students was a major motivator for me,” Wiley says. “As an engineering student, I have always appreciated the feeling of making grand ideas come to fruition.”

But the most fun he had was at the karaoke sessions.

“Getting on the stage with fellow students truly felt like a concert,” Wiley says. “Singing Ed Sheeran (songs) terribly off-key is a memory I just do not think I could ever forget.”

“E2 is what you make of it,” Wiley adds. “So stay engaged, go meet people and, most importantly, get on stage during karaoke.”

Crowd of ASU students standing in a wooded area.

Fulton Schools leaders see the value of E2 in how it is bringing together diverse groups of young students from different places and a range of backgrounds and giving them opportunities to connect with their college peers and future fellow engineers, as well as Fulton Schools faculty and staff. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Fulton Schools alumnus Daniyal Ahmed, a 2017 electrical engineering graduate, recalls his experiences at E2 as a first-year student and later as a student counselor.

“I went in the summer of 2013 as a nervous freshman. I thought it was the absolute coolest thing that professors and faculty and the deans took time to come and spend it (with us) in the woods at Prescott Pines. And on top of it all, Ira Fulton himself came and spoke to us to get us going on our journey,” Ahmed says. “I just had to go back in 2014 as a student counselor.”

Ahmed, who works today for an electrical engineering planning and design consulting company, returned to E2 for another three years after that, each time meeting other students he now says will be lifelong friends.

He recalls that throughout his college years, younger students would call out to him on ASU’s Tempe campus.

“Some would shout, ‘Hey Daniyal, you were my lead at E2.’ And it still happens today when new young engineers join our office and recognize me from years ago,” he says.

He has since returned to E2 when his brother served as a student lead, and also came back this year as a volunteer.

“It was amazing to feel the energy and excitement of E2 all over again,” Ahmed says.

ASU students make a pitchfork sign with their hands.

Many friendships were made among the nearly 1,900 first-year students who attended E2 this year, thanks to activities such as karaoke singalongs and nighttime campfire gatherings that take place during the experience. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU global health alumna helps make wishes come true

September 8, 2022

Nicole Waldmann always knew she wanted to give back to her community. The courses and internships she took in the global health program at Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change fueled her passion. 

Waldmann graduated from ASU in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in global health, and now she helps make critically sick children’s wishes come true. She is the volunteer coordinator for Make-A-Wish Arizona and credits her advisors and her nonprofit internships that led to her dream job.  Nicole Waldmann, ASU alum and volunteer coordinator for Make-A-Wish Arizona, stands with arms folded against a wall that reads "Make-A-Wish" Nicole Waldmann, volunteer coordinator for Make-A-Wish Foundation Download Full Image

“I received my first internship with Make-A-Wish Arizona,” Waldmann said, “and I was the wish granting intern in the spring of 2020. From there, it kind of trickled to different nonprofits that I was able to dip and immerse myself into, and that kind of really solidified (that) global health is where I want to be.”

During her time in the global health program at ASU, Waldmann also completed an internship with the American Red Cross, where she worked in the international services department. As an undergraduate student, she wanted to learn more about helping asylum seekers and refugees. 

“I specifically worked in the Restoring Family Links Program at the American Red Cross to help reconnect families who had been internationally separated due to armed conflict, disasters, migration and other humanitarian crises,” Waldmann said. 

Waldmann says her nonprofit internship experiences are what really prepared her for her current career. She said getting work experience was invaluable, along with the incredible advisors at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change who helped her make connections to the nonprofit world. 

She loves working at the Make-A-Wish Foundation and is inspired by the volunteers and their dedication. The national nonprofit organization started in Arizona, with a little boy named Christopher James Greicius, who wanted to be a police officer in 1980. 

Waldmann said the Make-A-Wish Arizona chapter in Scottsdale is fondly referred to as the “wish house” by employees. 

“Our main mission is to grant wishes for children with critical illnesses,” Waldmann said. “At the end of the day, we are trying to grant as many wishes as possible, and being able to put smiles on so many kids faces — it’s such a warm, amazing feeling.” 

Waldmann said they are always looking for volunteers and she encourages people to learn more about the organization's many volunteer opportunities

“ASU will always have a special place in my heart,” Waldmann said. “I’m so thankful for all the classes I was able to take during my undergrad. Many of the specific classes I had taken were not offered at other colleges. ASU and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change really opened my eyes to so many opportunities in my community, and I’m so thankful I was able to have these wonderful opportunities.”

Nicole Pomerantz

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change