ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington supports the next generation of STEM majors through Engineering Ahead (EA), an academic enhancement program for incoming first-year students. It is designed to help them succeed in crucial coursework during their first year of college and beyond.
Michael Kagan, associate professor of physics and EA academic director, said the diverse cohort of students invested much time and effort preparing for the challenges of college math while gaining an early introduction to the pace, rigor and social aspects of an Abington education.
“We build on our years of experience to deliver a comprehensive program focusing on courses that are critical to earning an engineering degree. This work helps develop an engineering mentality. The students also begin to create networks with faculty and professional engineers,” he said.
The five-week hybrid program featured math instruction, metacognition seminars, exams and about 20 hours in total of homework during the program. To complete the program and earn a $500 stipend, EA students must attend 90% of classes, earn a minimum 80% average on assignments, and participate in office hours with peer mentors, most of whom are EA alumni.
"If they survive EA, they are going to be just fine in their academic studies,” Kagan said.
Student Tanisha Shah praised the program for preparing her for college and beyond.
“I honed the art of team building by engaging in group projects and collaborative work, which fostered my ability to work with diverse individuals. I've also nurtured meaningful connections for effective communication and active listening to support me during my college years,” she said.
“Delving deeply into my chosen major illuminated the potential challenges and opportunities ahead. I am confident that the lessons I have learned thus far will serve as a strong foundation for my future success,” Shah continued.
I honed the art of team building by engaging in group projects and collaborative work, which fostered my ability to work with diverse individuals. I've also nurtured meaningful connections for effective communication and active listening to support me during my college years.
—Tanisha Shah , Abington engineering major
Highlights of the program included a visit to the labs at University Park’s College of Engineering and collaborations with industry partners for lectures and site visits. Alumnus Stephan Zweidler, director of technical sales and marketing at Accudyne and former chair of the campus Advisory Board, stressed the importance of mechatronics, which focuses on the integration of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering systems.
“At the Accudyne visit, we got to see an actual engineering workshop. We learned about the process a business goes through from start to finish as well as how critical creativity is to engineering,” student Eliezer Gill said.
In addition, 10 employees from two Lockheed Martin business areas shared their time with the students: Carolina Alfaro, Rebecca Cohen, Frank Flaherty, Paul Kogut, Lourdes LaPorte, Greg Morozzi, Nathan Musselman, Emily Nix, Allen Puy and Aly Farkas, who completed the EA program and graduated from Abington in 2021.
“When I attended Engineering Ahead, it allowed me to gain the confidence I needed and built a great foundation for college, which allowed me to pursue great courses, get involved with undergraduate research, and do well academically,” said Farkas, a systems engineer at Lockheed Martin.
The 19 students in the 2023 EA cohort included those from underrepresented backgrounds such as ethnic minorities, women, first-generation college students, and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The EA program at Abington has evolved over the last decade, starting with a grant funded by the National Science Foundation. In 2023, EA was supported by the Equal Opportunity Planning Committee at the University, a grant from Barnes & Noble, and Abington’s Albert and Suzanne Lord Endowment.
The engineering degree with the multidisciplinary engineering design option at Abington incorporates advanced coursework in electrical engineering, computer engineering and engineering design to produce innovative engineers specialized in systems design and integration.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education to its diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers bachelor’s degrees in 25 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.