Potential engineering undergrads get closer look at Vanderbilt before final decision

Doug Adams, left, the Daniel F. Flowers Professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, speaks to potential School of Engineering undergraduates. (Heidi Hall/Vanderbilt University)

Potential engineering students got their best shot Saturday to decide whether Vanderbilt University is for them, with labs throwing open their doors and professors and students speaking candidly about the challenges the School of Engineering presents.

The thing is, though, they’ll probably love it, student volunteers assured a crowd of 67 high-school seniors and their families.

Click here for a photo gallery of Saturday’s open house.

Gabbey Tate (EE’16) volunteered at an information table, sharing her experiences as electrical engineering lead for the Vanderbilt Motorsports Club. She spends 17 hours a week working on the car that the team will race at Formula North in Ontario, Canada, and excitedly offered to show her audience Facebook pictures of last year’s university competition.

Gabbey Tate

“It takes up most of my free time, but it’s worth it,” Tate said, scrolling through pictures of the team at Michigan International Speedway. “Other team members might only have six to eight hours a week to spend.”

The conversation impressed Iowa City West High School senior Akash Borde, who said he hasn’t decided where he’ll attend college and still has a few more tours to take.

“I’ve never been to Vanderbilt, so I figured I would come and get a feel for the campus and what the South is like,” he said.

Logan Guy, a senior at St. Mary’s Hall in San Antonio, Texas, already wore a Vanderbilt t-shirt as he learned about the chemical and biomolecular engineering department from its chair, Kane Jennings, and chemical engineering major Mollie Maples (ChE’17).

“The open house allows you to hear a lot of current students’ opinions about Vanderbilt, plus contact professors a lot more easily than if you weren’t on campus,” Guy said. He said he’ll make his final decision on where to attend in the coming weeks.

Art Overholser, senior associate dean, opened the event with a PowerPoint presentation that invited students to be a part of an engineering revolution. It featured pictures of various clubs and student organizations and assured the group that students will participate in hands-on research by the time they leave.

Julie Johnson, right, assistant professor of the practice of computer science, speaks to a potential student and his mother. (Heidi Hall/Vanderbilt University)

He invited parents to book their hotel rooms for the second Friday in May 2019, because the School of Engineering has such great success at graduating students in four years.

During a student panel, one parent asked how students can adjust to a new level of competition.

Rebecca Riley (CE’17) said it was a matter of setting priorities. She said students should ask themselves: Is it more valuable to spend 20 hours studying for a minor test, or would it be better to take some of that time to form social connections that could prove valuable later?

“One thing that surprised me was that the grading of papers was much more stringent than I was used to in high school,” Riley said. “You’ve got to nitpick everything in order to get an A on that test. You have to decide where you want to sacrifice your time.”

After the information tables, panel and lunch, visitors got a chance to see examples of research going on each department’s labs, plus — if they wanted — take in a ballgame with the world champion Vanderbilt baseball team. It was just across the street from the School of Engineering’s Olin Hall.


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering