Summer/Fall 2012

Diversity/Careers Summer/Fall 2012 Issue

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Saluting our Schools

Embry-Riddle helps female students succeed

ERAU students are involved with aviation, as pilots, mechanics, designers, engineers, operators, or in the aviation and aerospace business. Each student has a formal mentor

Students who choose Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU, Daytona Beach, FL) know what to expect from their education: they are going to be involved with aviation, as pilots, technicians, designers, engineers, operators, or in the aviation and aerospace business.

"Our students have a strong sense of what they want to do," says Heidi Steinhauer, associate professor of engineering. "We can demand more of our students."

ERAU serves more than 31,000 students. One residential campus is in Daytona Beach, FL and another in Prescott, AZ. The Daytona Beach campus has 4,400 undergrad and 390 grad students; Prescott has 1,650 and thirty. The remaining 19,500 undergrad and 5,700 grad students are enrolled in classroom instruction in over 150 locations worldwide and a distance learning program.

International students make up 11 percent of the student body, many of them Indian, Chinese and Korean. ERAU works with them to resolve visa issues, and its on-campus language institute supports students for whom English is a second language. These students can begin their ERAU career at the institute and enter the university after mastering English.

ERAU offers a wide variety of aviation, aerospace, and engineering-related degrees from associates through masters levels. A PhD in engineering physics is offered, and a PhD program in aerospace engineering will start in the fall of 2013. A doctorate of aviation is also offered, mostly on line. ERAU is the sole provider of aviation-related degree programs to the U.S. military in Europe. It's the largest accredited aviation-oriented university in the world, Steinhauer reports.

Spacecraft and aircraft on campus
The university has a fleet of ninety-two instructional aircraft and forty-one flight simulators. Aircraft frequently land and take off from nearby Daytona Beach International Airport.

The sound of aircraft often draws students out of their classrooms to see what's flying. "It could be a Cessna or an F-18," says Lisa Davids, associate professor of engineering. "It makes a nice atmosphere if you're interested in aircraft or spacecraft."

ERAU students have mentors
Currently 17 percent of residential students are women, but the university is aiming for 20 percent women by 2016. "We keep every woman student we have," says Davids.

As part of the 2011 Women's Initiative to support and retain women students, ERAU established a women's center, staffed by a female graduate assistant. She's there to advise female students to persevere through difficult engineering programs rather than change majors.

"It's important to have someone to talk to who has been through the struggle," Davids says. "Engineering is difficult, but you can make it through."

Davids and Steinhauer serve as faculty advisors for a team of female engineering students who began competing in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja competition in 2006. They are currently the only all-female team that designs, fabricates, tests and competes an all-terrain vehicle as a part of the collegiate competition.

When they saw the positive effects of the informal mentoring that happened during the competition, the two professors led a move to more formal mentoring, pairing freshmen with juniors and seniors in the school's two-by-two program. "The students on the team were doing really well in class. We saw we needed to replicate that," says Davids. In 2008, the program was expanded to include the entire university. "Now, everyone is mentoring each other."

Female grad to drive for ERAU's racing team
Alumna Marisha Falk has been selected to drive for Larsen Motorsports on the new Embry-Riddle racing team. The team was created as part of ERAU's high-performance vehicles program, in conjunction with the opening of the Larsen Motorsports High-Performance Vehicles Research and Development Center in 2012. The center is supported by Larsen Motorsports owner Elaine Larsen and her company.

Falk, who is twenty-four, is a certified senior commercial multi-engine instrument flight instructor at the Daytona Beach campus. She's in training to become the fourth woman in the world licensed to drive turbine powered race vehicles. She started working with the Larsen group four years ago, crewing at the track. Since then she has worked in the fabrication labs and in sales.

"Women are traditionally stronger students, more involved with the university and more involved after graduation," Steinhauer says. "They bring great diversity to the classroom."

Diversity is a strategic goal
Various programs have been established to accomplish the diversity goals in ERAU's multi-year strategic plan. The women's center does lots to help students make friends and get comfortable on campus. The center hosts guest speakers and social events, along with a women's trivia contest and the "Riddle Run-Around" icebreaker. The center's staff assistant holds office hours in the center and participates in first-year programs, informing students about the center's services. More women's sports are being added. Scholarships are available.

Each year, the all-female team's Baja vehicle is named after a woman who has made her mark in science and engineering. This year, it's Sally Ride, an astronaut and Stanford alumna who flew on two space missions and now encourages young women to consider technical careers.


 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Main campus: Daytona Beach, FL
Engineering enrollment: 31,620 (25,550 undergrad and 6,120 graduate)
Graduate & UG tech degrees offered: AS, BS and MS in aviation-related technical areas; PhD in aviation; PhD in engineering physics; PhD in aerospace engineering; certificate courses at all levels
Ways to matriculate: Full time or part time on main or satellite campuses; most programs offered on line

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