College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

EM Success Center meets the needs of today’s students

Jenny Johannsen, EM Success Center
Pictured: (left to right) Leroy Sturges, Jenny Johannsen and student. Thanks to the support of the College of Engineering, the EM Success Center will soon be able to make updates to the learning space such as paint, carpet, TVs and additional computers.

Think of it as one-stop shopping for all your studying needs: the Engineering Mechanics Success Center. Aerospace engineering lecturer Jenny Johannsen and other aerospace engineering professors have created and enhanced a space for students to receive supplemental help, feedback on homework and where other study resources are made available. This service has been around for years as a help desk, but has recently moved to a larger, more structured environment to better address the needs of the current, and growing, engineering student population at Iowa State.

“As a help desk, we really weren’t sure how successful it was,” said Johannsen. “We wanted to do something that would help meet the needs of all students. For those who might not know the right question to ask, or for someone who may be intimidated by asking their professor – we wanted to create a community where students can feel comfortable asking any question at any time.”

To establish best practices, Johannsen began asking her fellow faculty members about what had worked in the past, and what should be the goal of new Success Center.

“In engineering mechanics, we teach the fundamentals. Students will use these principles later in their sophomore and junior level classes, so it is critical that they achieve a solid understanding and build on a foundation of success,” Johannsen said.

Johannsen explained that due to larger class sizes, most engineering homework is submitted and graded online. This sometimes leads to confusion during the many steps involved in engineering equations, and with the loss of face-to-face or handwritten comments, some students may not reach out to their professors to understand where exactly their homework went wrong.

In addition to one-on-one help, the center will have an abundance of resources like a central library, videos and demos available to students. Johannsen also stated that she hopes the center becomes not only a place where students can get help from faculty, but a community where students can learn from each other. The Aerospace Engineering Department has supported her initiative and funded several graduate teaching assistantships specific to the center.

“You never learn something as well as when you explain it to someone else,” said Leroy Sturges, associate professor in aerospace engineering. “Here’s a chance, especially for graduate students who want to become professors, to get valuable teaching experience. I’d like these to become coveted positions.”

Johannsen said that her inspiration for the revamped Success Center stemmed from wanting to find the best way to help the greatest number of students, and from her own experience as an undergraduate engineering student at Iowa State University.

“I want to continue the tradition of excellence our faculty have established, and meet the needs of today’s students. This has really been a joint effort between the department and college, and I hope students feel like this is the place to be,” Johannsen said.

The Engineering Mechanics Success Center is located in room 0308 Howe Hall and is open 30 to 35 hours each week. Exact hours vary from semester to semester. For graduate students interested in teaching assistant appointments, contact Dr. Christina Bloebaum.

Check out more photos of the Engineering Mechanics Success Center.