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Villanova LEADs the Way in Engineering

Villanova University LEAD 2013
Dr. Dave Dinehart gives a lesson in civil engineering

For three weeks in July, 30 high-achieving high school sophomores and juniors from across the country visited Villanova University to take part in the LEAD (Leadership Education And Development) 2013 Summer Engineering Institute (SEI). The mission of the national LEAD program is to “engage youth of diverse backgrounds to convert high potential into high achievement and responsible leadership.” Offering opportunities in business, engineering and computer science, students gain the skills, experience and encouragement they need to fulfill their educational and professional aspirations. This was Villanova’s fourth year as a LEAD SEI university.

During their time on campus, students enjoy a true college experience, from classroom seminars and hands-on laboratory projects, to industry visits and off-campus cultural and outdoor events. They discover the impact that engineering can have on society, while also gaining an edge in college preparation. In addition to learning the basics of chemical, electrical and computer, civil and environmental, mechanical and sustainable engineering, students are introduced to the concept of service learning and encouraged to nurture their creative side with lessons on engineering entrepreneurship.  

Villanova University LEAD 2013
An audience of faculty, family and students attend the LEAD presentations

The Summer Engineering Institute culminates with final design project presentations. Student teams, each assigned to one of Villanova’s engineering majors, are required to develop a discipline-specific approach to the same problem. This year, the curriculum focused on engineering challenges in the developing world, and participants were asked for a solution to provide clean drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa. On presentation day, teams took turns sharing an overview of the problem from the perspective of their respective disciplines, describing the elements of their proposed solution, and explaining related processes.  After concluding with the benefits of their approach, students fielded challenging questions from audience members, which included their family members and engineering faculty. The experience provided a terrific opportunity for students to learn how to work in teams, become comfortable presenting to an audience, and improve their ability to think on their feet.

Karen Ramsey, whose daughter Danielle was a 2013 LEAD participant, has nothing but praise for Villanova’s SEI. “Danielle is our second daughter to go through the program. It’s such a great learning experience.  The students become aware of new career opportunities that they might never have been exposed to.” 

Villanova’s SEI partnership with LEAD began in 2010, and in its first year, the University was recognized for the strength of its program. “At the time, the University of Virginia, Michigan State University, Georgia Tech and California Tech were also hosting the Engineering Institute. When rated by students, Villanova received the highest marks, making it the number one program in the country,” says Dr. Stephen Jones, Associate Dean of Student and Strategic Programs. “Participants praised Villanova’s SEI for its content, rigor and accessibility to faculty and undergraduate and graduate students.” When LEAD lost SEI funding, originally provided by Google, programs at the other universities closed. Villanova’s has continued with the generous support of  the Dow Chemical Company,