The engineering experience

Recently, a colleague and I were speaking about the “Iowa State experience” and why practical knowledge and leadership opportunities are such an important part of our institutional identity. What he said about Iowa State’s tradition of student engagement reflects what I see every day: that with more than 800 student clubs and organizations, a strong residence system, nationally recognized learning communities, service-learning opportunities, industrial co-ops and internships, and study abroad, Iowa State is a great place for students to learn and experience college life.

Learning takes place not only in the classroom, but also through the many and diverse leadership opportunities that are available for students today.

As I considered these points, I realized that engineering students are front and center in this regard. When the Engineering Student Council unveiled a corporate web portal at this fall’s career fair, a total of 83 engineering student organizations, groups, and clubs were listed. And that list is still under development.

Clearly, our students are engaged, too, but there’s an important part of their experience that does differentiate them. Our college is imbued with a practical culture—not surprising, considering that we’re engineers. Undergraduate engineering students—even first-year students—work with our researchers in labs. They also get real-world, first-hand experience through internships and co-ops. It’s experience that pays: our undergrads earn about $7.4 million a year in co-ops, many of which are semester-long commitments. More than 80 percent of them graduate with real work experience, and it is the rule, not the exception, that students have job offers waiting for them. Starting salaries are attractive, to say the least.

Ultimately, more than 60 percent of the students who enroll in our college graduate within five years with a great education, invaluable practical knowledge, a network of professional contacts, and outstanding career prospects. Their Iowa State experience is truly one that lasts a lifetime.