E2: An essential experience
E2 gives first-year students an invaluable introduction to the Fulton Schools and to their fellow aspiring engineers
Jennifer Wong was close to deciding she would skip E2 before beginning engineering studies at Arizona State University in 2018.
“I knew absolutely no one who was going to be there. I was a little scared and I didn’t know what to expect,” Wong says of the pre-fall semester orientation experience that has been offered for the past 14 years to first-year students in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
She can’t recall why she changed her mind and went to one of the three-day, two-night sessions at a large campground in the forested hills near Prescott, Arizona. But she does remember leaving with more than a few new friends.
In the four years since then, while earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, earning recognition as the program’s Outstanding Graduate and beginning the pursuit of a master’s degree in the program, “I have completely lost track of how many E2 sessions I’ve been involved in,” Wong says.
She has served as a lead E2 assistant, a student counselor and a peer mentor, among related roles that helped her develop leadership skills. Now a management intern with the Fulton Schools’ office of Academic and Student Affairs operations, Wong has recently earned opportunities to work as part of the professional staff that plans and facilitates E2 sessions.
“I think of E2 as an essential part of a student’s journey in the Fulton Schools,” Wong says. “I have rarely heard of students regretting going to E2, but I have heard plenty of students who regret not going to E2.”
Tami Coronella, director of Student Success and Engagement in the Fulton Schools, oversees E2 and echoes Wong’s outlook on the most effective asset the experience can provide students.
“The most important thing for students is learning how to form meaningful relationships,” Coronella says. “At the core of what we do is creating a sense of community and belonging among our students.”
“Making connections is vital to students’ success in college, and it’s really the big reason why we do E2,” says James Collofello, the Fulton Schools vice dean of Academic and Student Affairs and a professor of computer science and software engineering.
Over the years, Collofello has seen students who first met at E2 now return as Fulton Schools alumni to volunteer and rekindle the camaraderie they first experienced.
Coronella says it is especially important for alumni to spend time with students. But she also wants to see even more Fulton Schools faculty and staff volunteer to help with E2.
“That’s how students are going to connect with people who can guide them, help them progress and overcome challenges,” Coronella says. “That’s how we will reinforce the E2 culture and make it even more effective.”
E2 is also increasingly essential because the Fulton Schools continue to draw growing numbers of international students, many of whom may need more help learning to foster relationships with faculty and fellow students.
“I’ve seen the benefits of encouraging students to form the support networks and peer relationships that are so crucial to thriving in college,” says Sarah Stabenfeldt, a Fulton Schools associate professor of biomedical engineering, one of many faculty members who have addressed students at E2 sessions.
There are definite benefits for first-year students who take advantage of E2 opportunities to meet the faculty members who will be their teachers, and talk to more experienced ASU students who are studying to earn degrees in various branches of engineering and related fields, Stabenfeldt says.
Almost 1,900 first-year students attended one of the 11 in-person E2 sessions this year, while about 450 attended virtual sessions.
Like E2 participants in previous years, many got career advice and encouragement from the Fulton Schools’ namesake and leading benefactor, Ira A. Fulton.
At a recent E2 session, Fulton urged students to go boldly forward in pursuit of their professional aspirations.
“Don’t wait until later to get involved in research and join student organizations,” Fulton told them.
Research the areas of engineering and technology that are projected to have growing impacts on the world — like artificial intelligence and machine learning — and learn about them, he said.
A bachelor’s degree will get you a job, but a graduate or doctoral degree will make you a highly valued expert, he added while recommending that students consider enrolling in one of the Fulton Schools’ 4+1 accelerated master’s degree programs.
Fulton Schools students’ achievements and success will be “the return on my investment,” Fulton concluded.
Amid the career advisement and introduction to the higher education ecosystem, E2 is designed to also immerse students in an environment of camaraderie and fun.
Manushri Muruga Kumar, a first-year computer science student, says she liked learning about the Fulton Schools and its myriad educational strengths. But she would also tell new students to take part in E2 for the karaoke singalongs, the nighttime campfire gatherings — at which s’mores are a featured menu item — and for the calming, cooling freshness of the E2 site’s woodsy terrain.
As an out-of-state computer science and software engineering student, Naomi Remili accomplished her E2 mission to meet new people.
“I made a group of friends who are all in similar majors or the same major and we have been hanging out,” Remili says. “It made the move here from a different state much easier. It’s really helpful in adjusting to college life.”
She also liked the campfire gatherings and the s’mores.
Seth Wiley, a senior in the automotive systems engineering program, had a role as an E2 student lead and peer mentor, which can involve helping set up the E2 campsite and getting the first-year students checked into their sessions. He also helped with constructing an escape room feature, 3D printing elements for group games, and the filming and editing of E2 media productions.
“E2 was a highly rewarding experience. Seeing genuine excitement from the students was a major motivator for me,” Wiley says. “As an engineering student, I have always appreciated the feeling of making grand ideas come to fruition.”
But the most fun he had was at the karaoke sessions.
“Getting on the stage with fellow students truly felt like a concert,” Wiley says. “Singing Ed Sheeran [songs] terribly off-key is a memory I just do not think I could ever forget.”
“E2 is what you make of it,” Wiley adds. “So, stay engaged, go meet people and, most importantly, get on stage during karaoke.”
Fulton Schools alumnus Daniyal Ahmed, a 2017 electrical engineering graduate, recalls his experiences at E2 as a first-year student and later as a student counselor.
“I went in the summer of 2013 as a nervous freshman. I thought it was the absolute coolest thing that professors and faculty and the deans took time to come and spend it [with us] in the woods at Prescott Pines. And on top of it all, Ira Fulton himself came and spoke to us to get us going on our journey,” Ahmed says. “I just had to go back in 2014 as a student counselor.”
Ahmed, who works today for an electrical engineering planning and design consulting company, returned to E2 for another three years after that, each time meeting other students he now says will be lifelong friends.
He recalls that throughout his college years, younger students would call out to him on ASU’s Tempe campus.
“Some would shout, ‘Hey Daniyal, you were my lead at E2.’ And it still happens today when new young engineers join our office and recognize me from years ago,” he says.
He has since returned to E2 when his brother served as a student lead, and also came back this year as a volunteer.
“It was amazing to feel the energy and excitement of E2 all over again,” Ahmed says.