Story in the School of Engineering
Building dependable student-faculty connections beyond four years is a high priority for civil engineering professor.
Mentoring relationships at Santa Clara build one meeting at a time, says Associate Professor Steven Chiesa, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering. "It starts with getting help on a particular problem set or a lab, and might move into other topics." From there, the connection grows.
Though a strong mentor relationship with a faculty member can improve any student's performance, it's especially valuable for students in engineering because it's a new subject for almost all undergraduates, Chiesa explains. "It's very different from high school math and science classes."
Santa Clara faculty place a high priority on accessibility and one-on-one instruction. Chiesa's open-door policy makes it easy for students to drop by his office, and it gives him an opportunity to check his own work: "Engineering can be difficult to teach; you need these additional opportunities to ensure students are learning."
Working with the same professors through many elective and required courses deepens the sense of continuity and rapport. Faculty members at larger schools may never again see a student from an introductory class, but Santa Clara instructors see a more complete maturation process. Students who interact with their professors know they can continue to call on them throughout their years at Santa Clara and beyond.
These connections enhance more than academic performance—students who feel confident collaborating and reaching out to others have a distinct advantage in practicing engineering in the real world.