Civil Engineering Graduate Student Applies Her Can-Do Attitude to New Program for First-Year Students at LMU

Lauren Kearns ’09 has always been driven by her love of learning mixed with the thrill of overcoming obstacles. She said that studying civil engineering, as an undergraduate and now as a graduate student at Loyola Marymount University, provides her with the right combination of opportunities to challenge herself. But Kearns didn’t always have this kind of clarity. As a first-year student at LaurenKearns - Civil Engineering Graduate Student Applies Her Can-Do Attitude to New Program for First-Year Students at LMULMU, she was an undeclared liberal arts major. She bounced from studying computer science to teaching to mathematics. After many conversations with several LMU faculty and staff members, Kearns found her niche in the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering. “Civil engineering gave me the challenge I was looking for without letting me get bored. I love taking a hands-on approach to a project, and engineering allows me to take mathematic principles and apply them to something,” Kearns said. “LMU helped me understand that I could succeed in this field if I put my mind to it.” Therefore, it made sense when Kearns was asked to serve as a resident adviser for the Programming for Engineering Education Community, a living-learning community for first-year engineering students, at LMU. As an R.A., Kearns has helped to build community by planning activities and programs for the residents. “The most rewarding experience is to work with first-year students. I want to do a good job for myself, but also for the students. It’s a good feeling to have been given this kind of opportunity and responsibility,” Kearns said. In its first year, PEEC creates a fully integrated learning experience and furthers students’ interest and success in pursuing careers in the engineering disciplines. PEEC students are enrolled in linked courses that they attend together. They also work on multi- and interdisciplinary projects under the direction of faculty members from Seaver College and the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts. The students live in one community on the first floor of Del Rey South residence hall. “PEEC brings the academic experience into their living environment. Students develop such close-knit relationships with one another because they study, work and hang out together,” Kearns said. Another key component of the program is community-based projects where teams of students design, build and analyze projects in collaboration with nonprofit organizations. This past year, projects included designing a playground for Alexandria House, a transitional residence for women and children in Los Angeles, and creating cost-effective ways of bringing different forms of light to villages in Malawi. “The projects encourage students to give back to the world at large. This allows them to take what they LaurenQuote - Civil Engineering Graduate Student Applies Her Can-Do Attitude to New Program for First-Year Students at LMUlearn in the classroom and strive to make a difference in the real world,” Kearns said. This past summer, PEEC students were invited to participate in a pre-college experience to help them become better acquainted with one another, the PEEC faculty, LMU and Los Angeles. They visited jet propulsion labs at NASA, took a harbor tour of the Port of Los Angeles, and attended a bonfire and barbecue at Dockweiler State Beach, near the LMU campus. Kearns also said that she thinks PEEC will be a successful tool to help retain engineering students, especially women. As a role model, she hopes to encourage female students to study engineering. “It’s good for all the students to work with a female who has successfully made it through the program,” Kearns said. “As a female, you automatically question your abilities in a field dominated by men, but it’s also a unique opportunity to stand out and shine.”