Engineering Welcome Day Fosters Community for New Students amid Pandemic
Image Credit: UCLA Samueli
More than 1,300 new and transfer students attended the daylong Engineering Welcome Day.
A student-run umbrella organization designed to facilitate communications between the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and its undergraduate student body, ESUC offered two identical Welcome Day sessions — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — so students could attend either while helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The daylong event also welcomed students whose UCLA careers started remotely over the last 18 months and were setting foot on campus for the first time.
Each session featured speeches from engineering administrators, campus representatives and information booths for students to learn more about engineering clubs. Participants also had an opportunity to meet their peer mentors at the end of Welcome Day as part of the MentorSEAS program, which pairs new students with an upperclassman from their major.
Jayathi Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean at UCLA Samueli, welcomed the new students into the engineering community by highlighting what makes UCLA’s engineers and computer scientists stand out above the rest.
“All Bruin engineers — undergrads, grad students, faculty, alumni — have one thing in common. And that is we’re all driven to make things better in a big way: to improve society, improve the quality of life and to engineer change together,” she said.
Murthy concluded her speech by challenging new students to focus on collaboration and inclusion.
“As engineers, we are natural problem solvers. But I also want every one of us to be better collaborators — to collectively build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive community, where all of us … will feel welcome and included,” she added.
Students also heard from representatives of the Office of Academic and Student Affairs and the UCLA Career Center before the event transitioned into the Resource Exploration Fair. To further acquaint new students with campus, ESUC started a new collaboration this year with student Engineering Ambassadors to lead students on guided campus tours during Welcome Day.
In addition, participants interacted with a multitude of Samueli’s engineering student groups at tables set up by returning students throughout the Court of Sciences and Boelter Hall’s second-floor courtyard. The booths featured a wide range of clubs, which offer major-focused activities and multidisciplinary projects such as building drones, rockets or racecars.
One of the engineering student organizations present was the Arab American Association of Engineers and Architects. Club member and fourth-year bioengineering student Sara Badih said the club’s goal is to create social and professional opportunities for Arab American students in engineering.
“Our club is relatively new. Starting last year, it was really difficult to recruit members because online social events are just not the same,” Badih said. “So we’re really excited this year to get that social aspect and just recruit more members.”
Fourth-year mechanical engineering and biochemistry student and ESUC president Yurika Yamada said the event’s new outdoor setting actually proved to be more beneficial for new students than previous Welcome Days that were held indoors. By hosting the event in the spaces where students attend classes and interact with their engineering clubs, Yamada felt that students would be even more comfortable in their new home at UCLA Samueli.
Students at the event expressed excitement about the return to in-person activities and the resources available to them.
“I really like collaborating with other people, and I feel like this environment is great for that,” said first-year civil engineering student Liana Yuen. “It seems like everyone wants to collaborate and work with a team.”
Other students also noted how supportive current students were as they first came to campus.
“All the upperclassmen I talked to from UCLA were super sweet and they gave me so much advice, and it just made me feel so welcomed,” said Ingrid Lee, a first-year mechanical engineering student.
Yamada said her own first-year welcome experience introduced her to many of the clubs in which she is currently involved, including ESUC. She said she wanted to give back to other new students by planning an informative and fun Welcome Day.
“I really had a positive experience in my first Engineering Welcome Day, … and I wanted to provide opportunities for all the other engineering students as well,” she said.
Natalie Weber contributed to this story.