Beyond the Curriculum

A world away, students work with Penn Engineering’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders. In a remote village of 225 residents, in Terreritos, Honduras, a team of 14 students designed and built a clean-water delivery system—clearing rocks, digging trenches, laying pipe, and most importantly, working side-by-side with community members and leaders. Previously, villagers trekked miles to get clean water. Or they used dirty water. Now, they have tap water from a natural spring well.

“One thing that separates Penn from other universities,” says Ellen Eckert, associate director for undergraduate admissions and advising, “is that we look for students who are well rounded.”
Penn Engineering students come from almost all 50 states and from more than 75 countries. The School has 1,545 undergraduate students—about one sixth of Penn’s 10,000 total undergraduates. “We’re actually a small engineering school,” says Eckert. “Each of our students gets to know many others.”  One fourth of the courses in which engineering students enroll are outside of engineering, math or science. And along with their chosen major, most undergraduate engineering students—70 percent—pursue a minor. Popular minors include engineering entrepreneurship, music and economics.

About 23 percent of engineering students pursue a dual-degree program, such as a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School. Alternatively, students can choose a dual major. A student can earn a single degree from Penn Engineering, with majors in two departments—for example, in Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering.

On campus, students are members of nearly 30 engineering-related clubs and organizations. Some students belong to organizations linked to a specific department, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Others join clubs revolving around particular interests, such as the Electric Vehicle Racing Club. And some students gather in affinity clubs, such as Women in Computer Science.

Penn Engineering students participate in community technology and outreach programs both locally and globally. Some programs earn academic credit, while others are purely voluntary. Many students, for example, work in Philadelphia to “bridge the digital divide.” They set up computers and offer training and consulting to nonprofit organizations.

What can you do with an engineering degree? “Anything you want,” says Eckert. Penn Engineering graduates enter many fields, including business, technology, medicine, law and research.

Credit: Penn Engineering Magazine, “Beyond the Curriculum,” by Michael J. Schwager.

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