Sweet Briar College Seeks to Foster Ideal Learning Environment for Next Generation of Female Engineers

Rather than large lecture-style classes, Sweet Briar College offers a hands-on experiential learning environment for engineering students.

While obtaining her undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech, Dr. Bethany Brinkman, associate professor of engineering at Sweet Briar, says she used to sit in the back of the classroom, take notes and “go about [her] way.” However, she says classes at Sweet Briar do not allow you to “hide.” 

Dr. Kevin Kochersberger — founder of the first African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) in Malawi — and students pose with low-cost drones made by the first class of ADDA students in January of 2020.

“That’s not ideal for everybody, women or men,” she says. “At Sweet Briar, because of our small class size, because of our focus on the liberal arts, because of our focus on women’s leadership, you can’t help but take a leadership role in something. Whether that is on a team or it’s in control of your own learning.”  

Within the Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program, class sizes remain small to provide students with individualized attention. There are between five and 10 students in upper level courses while introductory courses have between 20 and 25 students. 

The four-year program was established in the fall of 2005 and was endowed by alumna Margaret Jones Wyllie in December 2009 with a gift of $3 million. Sweet Briar’s engineering science program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and is one of only two degree-granting engineering programs at a women’s college in the U.S., according to Sweet Briar’s website. 

When it comes to engineering accreditation, ABET “really checks and makes sure that the program is robust, is stable and is providing the necessary education,” says Brinkman. “And without it, your students can’t take ‘The Fundamentals of Engineering exam.’ So, it really legitimizes the program and says, ‘hey, we’re on par with everybody else.’”

More than 35% of Sweet Briar graduates receive t

Read more: https://diverseeducation.com/article/185020/


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