College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

APEX for Engineers helps incoming multicultural students adjust to university life

2014 APEX E class

Twenty-two engineering students are getting a jump-start on their Iowa State experience through a summer bridge program.

When Alexis Moreno was preparing for his freshman year at Iowa State a year ago, he was nervous about the transition from high school to college. Moreno, who is originally from Chicago, says he was looking forward to coming to campus, but he didn’t know what to expect.

That’s why he decided to apply for APEX for Engineers, or APEXE.

The program is a subset of Iowa State’s Academic Program for EXcellence (APEX), which brings multicultural students to campus the summer before their first semester to give them a sense of what college life is like.

The students spend eight weeks living in the dorms, taking courses and networking with peers, faculty and staff. They also get a chance to experience the social side of college, participating in activities, serving leadership roles within the program and getting involved in student organizations.

LeQuetia Ancar, assistant director of engineering student services and multicultural liaison officer, coordinates APEXE and says the program focuses on engaging the students in all that campus has to offer.

“They learn about helpful resources on campus, like the Writing and Media Center and the Academic Success Center, and they go to meetings with each of the engineering departments to learn more about the majors and career opportunities they offer,” she explains.

Ancar also coordinates industry visits for the students, where they meet with alumni and see engineering in practice.

This year, 22 of the 68 students participating in APEX are engineers. They came to campus June 9 and will be in the program until August 8.

Ancar says the program helps students get used to the environment and expectations of college, so when the fall semester starts they are prepared to take on the challenges of balancing coursework with all the activity of campus in full swing.

Alexis Moreno
Alexis Moreno

Moreno, a sophomore in aerospace engineering, says that’s exactly what the program did for him.

He is now involved with his fraternity Theta Delta Chi as philanthropy chair and has participated in clubs and other programs on campus. This summer, he’s holding a research internship with Iowa State’s Virtual Reality Applications Center.

“APEXE gave me a little nudge, and I’ve been pushing forward since then to make the most of my time here. I’ve grown exponentially,” he says.

Moreno plans to continue leadership within his fraternity, and he wants to land a professional internship and study abroad before he earns his undergraduate degree.

Eric Diaz, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from St. Paul, Minnesota, says his APEXE experience motivated him as well.

Eric Diaz
Eric Diaz

“A lot of people don’t want to spend that last summer before college taking classes, but it was worth it to be better prepared once the fall semester starts,” Diaz says.

Diaz spent his first year involved in the freshman honor’s program, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the LEAD Learning Community. This summer, he’s participating in the Microscale Sensing Actuation and Imaging Research Experience for Undergraduates, and next year he’ll be a peer mentor for the LEAD LC.

Both Moreno and Diaz noted the tips on studying and scheduling from Psych 131 have come in handy during their first year.

“I thought the summer I was in the program was so busy and remember feeling overwhelmed from coordinating and managing my time,” Diaz says. “But now that I’m involved in so much more on top of classwork, I’m glad I have the tools I learned through APEXE.”

Ancar says Moreno, Diaz and all the participants in the program were eager to get involved in extracurricular activities early in their first semester, and they are doing wonderfully in their academics.

“As we are well into our second year of the program, I know the students will learn a lot from the experience,” she says. “The cohort we had last year showed the program works, and I expect the same sorts of results from this group once they start their freshman year.”