The Villanova Engineering, Science, Technology, Enrichment, and Development (VESTED) outreach program strives to close the gap for students in under-resourced schools and expand the pool of future engineers. Launched in 2006, VESTED is led by the College of Engineering’s Associate Dean for Student and Strategic Programs, Dr. Stephen Jones.
Between January and April, 49 high school students—more than half coming from Philadelphia—work with Villanova faculty, staff and students across seven Saturdays to receive an in-depth engineering experience that includes college preparation courses, team building and discussions with industry mentors on engineering careers. Participating faculty include Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Dr. Jacob Elmer, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Deeksha Seth, and Director of the College’s Multidisciplinary Design Lab, George Simmons. Several Villanova Engineering undergraduates also volunteer with the program.
Dr. Jones says, “Over 90 percent of these students return to the VESTED program every year, eager to get started on a new project, which may include programming drones, building and testing bridges, 3-D printing, creating robotic arms, and more.”
Andrea Hammond ’20 ChE, a VESTED volunteer, says, “The experience is definitely one of a kind. Growing up in an environment very similar to that of Philadelphia, I was not exposed much to much STEM until the latter half of my high school career when it was almost too late to make an informed decision about that area of study in college. With the opportunity to participate in VESTED, I not only help students get what I had not received when I was their age, but I also learn more about different paths my own field can provide me with.”
Senior Civil Engineering major Sarah Godschall adds, “The VESTED program provides a great opportunity for high school students to learn about the possibilities within engineering and better prepare for all aspects of college life. As a volunteer, I’ve tried to inspire the students, but ended up being inspired by them. They have really taught me to think outside the box. The VESTED program has allowed me to share my passion and engineering experiences and engage in teamwork in a way that’s different from that of my schoolwork.”
Each year, approximately 15–20 high school seniors leave VESTED to pursue a college degree. Dr. Jones says, “VESTED increases participants’ understanding of and appreciation for engineering, improves academic performance and school attendance, and increases college attendance. We’re incredibly proud of the program and the difference that it’s made in hundreds of these students’ lives.”