ECE junior Brandi Coker is clear evidence that the school’s peer mentoring program works.
Starting out in general engineering in her first term, Coker quickly decided on electrical and computer engineering after being introduced to the engineering disciplines offered at OSU. She is also working toward a minor in computer science.
One goal of the peer mentoring program is to make students feel part of a community. And some of that is accomplished by having undergraduate students act as teaching assistants (TAs) for the lab sections of freshman-level classes. Another part is having a mentor lounge in the Kelley Engineering Center, where mentors are available to answer questions or students can just hang out.
“Professors can seem intimidating to freshmen, and it’s much easier to approach an undergraduate TA.” said Coker. “I hung out in the mentor lounge all the time, and not necessarily because I needed help. I really found a home for me here in EECS because of the community.”
In turn, Coker decided she wanted to become a peer mentor. “I like the interaction with the students,” she said. “And I like that we’re continually passing on the knowledge that was handed to us by our mentors.”
Coker noted that she has also learned a lot as a mentor. “I’m much more confident and my public speaking and interviewing skills have definitely improved. I’m also learning to deal with people and get a sense about different group dynamics.”
Coker has also worked for the TekBots program for the past two summers. Most recently, she worked on a team that designed a WunderBoard for ECE students to use to learn embedded C programming. Using a microcontroller and “a zillion types of I/O” including a microphone, microSD card slot, and USB, students can learn programming in a way that’s more applicable to their major.
“I tell freshmen that they’re lucky because they get use this cool new thing,” Coker said with a smile. “I’m jealous.”