New Americas IET student chapter

26 June 2013
Purdue University, Indiana

A new IET student chapter has been created at Purdue University, Indiana.

Rachel Tai.

Rachel Tai: “I was honoured to be able to help such a prestigious institution like the IET expand its success to the Americas.”

Purdue University, Indiana

A renowned research university, Purdue has around 40,000 students.

Purdue University, Indiana

Roughly 25 per cent of students are in the engineering school, with almost half being international students.

The IET has now established its first student chapter in the Americas thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of a small team of volunteers and staff, reports Keri Allan.

The IET has several well-established and active student chapters around the world, but until recently none existed anywhere across the Americas. This has all changed thanks to the creation of an IET student chapter at Purdue University, Indiana.

A renowned research university, Purdue has around 40,000 students and in 2010-11 received $420m to fund research. Established in 1869 as a land grant school where the government donated huge tracks of land for universities that were focused on agriculture and engineering, about 25 per cent of the students are in the engineering school, with almost half being international students.

The idea of developing a student chapter first came about when in 2012 Ann Naan, IET community relationship manager – Americas, asked if it would be possible to run a Present Around the World (PATW) heat at Purdue, her alma mater.

“Purdue has a great engineering school, ranked ninth in the US, an established successful women in engineering programme and Engineering Projects in the Community (EPICs) where Purdue engineers solve problems locally and internationally,” she highlights. “[At the PATW heat] we had 11 competitors, of which Rachel Tai was one. Although she didn't win, she was really excited about the idea of starting a student chapter at Purdue.”

Resources for engineering students

“I was honoured to be able to help such a prestigious institution like the IET expand its success to the Americas,” says Rachel.

“I am an international student from Malaysia, where I studied in the British education system. Having lived in the US for a year, I was becoming more aware of the differences and similarities between the teaching and learning styles of each country, and was very interested in merging the two. In addition to this, the IET offers a wide variety of international opportunities that were not really available in other clubs at Purdue.

“A group like the IET is excellent for engineering students because it is well-established internationally so that it has accumulated a global knowledge base for engineering. Members are able to access this knowledge through the IET library, which could help students in their academics. Furthermore, the IET provides employment opportunities because it serves as a networking platform that connects student members to executive members in industry.

“Having a student chapter also allows students to develop their leadership skills while being active on campus outside of academia, which in most cases makes for a more marketable candidate when job-hunting,” she adds.

Writing a constitution

Rachel made inquiries about how to set up a chapter on campus and then worked with Soren Maloney from the IET’s New England Network and Young Professionals Community on writing up the chapter’s constitution and applied to the university’s student organisations office for approval.

Since getting the thumbs up this February, it’s been go, go, go, with Rachel organising a second PATW event and planning a call for members in the autumn.

“We plan to have a call-out when the Fall semester begins in September to recruit members for the chapter and have elections for the executive board in the January 2014,” says Rachel. “As of now, the chapter consists of the president, treasurer and two club advisors.

“Our advisors were chosen with the direction of the club in mind. Our primary advisor is Mary Schweitzer, who runs the Global Engineering Program (GEP) at Purdue and our technical advisor is Dr Ghadir Haikal, a professor in the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue. Since writing our constitution they have been especially helpful in helping to organise our first event (PATW) and suggesting different events that we can organise later in the year.”

Communication avenues

Currently the chapter is working on the development of a web page, which will be the main point of communication between the chapter and the public. This will contain information on the chapter’s current and future events, as well as links to the IET’s social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter.

Rachel’s aim is to develop the chapter by hosting events surrounding themes that include, but are not limited to, global engineering and careers in engineering, technology and science and she has begun to liaise with a variety of student clubs and organisations such as the GEP, the Purdue Consulting Club and the Purdue Energy Forum around the idea of co-organising events.

“By working with other student clubs on campus, we hope to reach a wider audience while co-organising events that would benefit everyone,” she explains. “Purdue has several career fairs that recruit students into more traditional engineering careers, which is why exposing students to other careers with an engineering degree is important. Working with other clubs on campus is one way we hope to achieve this.”

How to develop active membership

The chapter is also aiming to have different committees active within the club that members can join.

“These committees range from inviting speakers and setting up a venue to advertising the next event and promoting the club. These will be the main way that members can get involved in the chapter, however, there will be other possible ways to be involved, such as participating in and volunteering to help run events,” Rachel notes.

“It might be too soon to say, but the chapter is definitely optimistic about involving a large population of students. We hope to impart useful and meaningful knowledge on students, which will stay with them long after graduation.

“One of the main themes that the chapter hopes to promote is the concept of global engineering, which will help spread the ‘IET word’ when graduates return to their home countries post-graduation because they are more likely to be able to apply the skills and concepts they learned by being part of the chapter,” she concludes.

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