Engineering ambassadors see rapid growth in second year

December 11, 2010

In just its second year of existence, the Penn State Engineering Ambassadors have expanded and educated hundreds of middle-school and high-school students across Pennsylvania about the importance of engineering to health, happiness and safety.

The Penn State Engineering Ambassadors program was started in 2009 by Melissa Marshall, its current faculty adviser, and Michael Alley, associate professor of engineering communication. Made up of students in almost all engineering majors, the ambassadors aim to share their experiences and inspire younger students — with a special focus on female students — to study engineering, particularly at Penn State.

"The main goal is to show how important engineering is to health, happiness and safety," Marshall explained. "We want to show them there's a connection between the science they're learning in class to cool engineering projects in the real world."

Marshall said the program started by only focusing on recruiting young girls, and ambassadors were only women. Now, the program has opened to men, and involvement has increased from 15 student ambassadors to 39.

"It started to broaden, and within that first year we had a lot more demand than the number of available ambassadors," Marshall said. And although the ambassadors now reach out to male and female students from middle school to prospective college students, there remains a focus on female recruitment.

While each engineering ambassadors visit provides high-school or college students with valuable information about the engineering field, it also benefits the ambassadors.

"It provides a great opportunity for students who are ambassadors to develop important communication and leadership skills, which are critical to academic and professional success," Marshall explained. She said communication and social skills are important for engineering students to show employers when they look for jobs. Besides just the skills, experience with programs like Engineering Ambassadors can boost a résumé.

"It's one thing to say 'I'm good at communication,' but it's another thing to mention Engineering Ambassadors," Marshall said. "It's concrete experience to talk about."

And even more than the advantages it provides to student ambassadors, the program also helps the University's engineering program.

"It's the most 'win-win' situation you can imagine — it's a great place to show off Penn State engineering through the voices of the students experiencing it," Marshall said.

  • In only its second year, the Engineering Ambassadors group has ballooned from 15 students to 39.

    IMAGE: Melissa Marshall

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 21, 2011