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Saint Mary’s students pursue fifth year in engineering program at Notre Dame

| Friday, August 18, 2017

Notre Dame College of Engineering will welcome ten Saint Mary’s students into its graduate program this year. Saint Mary’s is one of two women’s colleges in the country to offer an engineering program.

Students can earn their first bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s and then a second bachelor of science in engineering from Notre Dame during a fifth year of study, according to the College’s website

College alumna Kaleigh Ellis, who will earn a degree in chemical engineering at Notre Dame, hopes to pursue a career in research and development for chemical products. Ellis said in an email she decided to partake in the dual degree program because she wanted both a technical education and a liberal arts education.

“ … I wanted to learn more about the elements that make up our world but also about the large-scale products designed from those elements,” she said. “I enjoyed the challenges of all my classes and loved how I could still have a technical education along with a strong focus in liberal arts. I like having a well-rounded education, and I believe the skills I have learned from both schools will propel me into a successful career.”

Shelby Lem majored in computing and applied mathematics at Saint Mary’s and will study computer science at Notre Dame. Lem said in an email she has always loved math and problem solving but was not sure she would like engineering.

When I decided to go to Saint Mary’s, I knew I wanted to pursue a mathematics degree,” she said. “When I was visiting, I had heard about the engineering program, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I would like engineering or which type of engineering I wanted to do. My sophomore year, we took the [introduction] to engineering course, and I fell in love with all of the programming we got to do in that class and quickly realized I wanted to pursue computer science.”

Adrienne Bruggeman majored in chemistry at Saint Mary’s and will pursue an environmental engineering degree at Notre Dame. She said in an email she chose her major because it allowed her to engage in two of her passions: science and engineering.

“I think this program catered to my indecisive nature,” she said. “I have always loved learning, and this allowed me to pursue both science and engineering wholeheartedly without having to choose one over the other. I didn’t realize until well into the program that lots of people see no need to combine science and engineering, but I’ve seen the benefit of the overlap.”

Patricia Hale will study computer science at Notre Dame and pursue a concentration in cyber security. She said in an email she decided to pursue the dual degree program because she developed an interest in a major and area of study that was not offered at Saint Mary’s.

“I wanted to get a degree in computer science and study cyber security, and it was not offered at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “I am super excited to take classes in computer forensics, [which] should be offered in the Spring.”

Lem said she does not think transitioning into her fifth year of schooling will be difficult.  

I have been going to classes with all of the Notre Dame students in my major for the past three years,” she said. “Other people [who] have gone through the program have told us that their fifth year was their easiest year yet. This is mostly due to our fourth year being so challenging.”

Bruggeman said she thinks the transition into her fifth year of education will be seamless.

“I am a fully integrated member of my engineering class after the last three years of classes in the program,” she said. “I think the biggest challenge through this transition is missing my friends who weren’t sneaky enough to steal an extra year at Saint Mary’s or Notre Dame.”

Lem said she is most looking forward to taking web applications and software engineering classes, as she wants to pursue work as a software developer after college while encouraging more young women to do the same.

After graduating, I hope to work as a software developer, preferably for a clothing or retail company,” she said. “In the future I would also love to start my own company making mobile apps and web services.”

Progress is to be made in regards to leveling the gender gap in STEM fields, Lem said.

“While the number of women joining the tech world is growing slowly, I believe there is always more we can do,” she said. “Young women need more role models who they can see themselves in. If I can be a role model for at least one young girl, I would feel accomplished.”

Bruggeman said she is looking forward to taking some elective classes, as she has not had a chance to do so since her first year at Saint Mary’s.

I’m especially looking forward to my first elective since freshman year, The Chemistry of Distillation and Fermentation,” she said. “I hope that the class will be one of those fun senior year electives that I didn’t get to have last year, and it’s nice that I get a second chance in this respect.”

Ellis said she thinks the only difficult aspect of her final year at Notre Dame will be continuing on without the Saint Mary’s professors she has come to know and love.

“The one thing I will definitely miss is having classes at Saint Mary’s and all the wonderful professors we have,” she said.

Hale said she will miss all her peers who earned degrees in fields unrelated to engineering.

“The hardest part of the transition for me will be being without my fellow Belles [who] are not studying engineering,” she said.


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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

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