ENGINEERING EDUCATION AWARD
University of Canterbury
“The University of Canterbury ENG ME! programme was the highlight of my university experience. I believe the program has a positive impact on engineering students in three key ways: to support students as they begin their studies; to provide a safe and fun social community; and to develop students’ professional skills.” – Abigail Field, referee.
The University of Canterbury’s ENG ME! Programme struck the judges with its transformational nature, having lasting impacts on career trajectories and the way that engineering education is received, with the bonus of strong focus on diversity and inclusion.
The ENG ME! peer mentoring program has transformed the first-year engineering experience at the University of Canterbury for our 1000+ first-year engineering students. The transition to university from high school is a significant step, and our vision was to create an inclusive and supportive environment where all our students are able to develop into the best engineers they can be. Student retention and success improves if they have access to a supportive network. Developing a new peer mentoring program that was ‘Student led, Faculty enabled’ was a core component towards realizing our vision. This approach allows the students to constantly evolve the program, so it meets the needs of each new and unique cohort. Up to six students act as Mentor Leads and run the mentoring program. They are assisted by mentors (up to 60 engineering students), teaching assistants, academics and support staff. Mentor roles are highly sought after and attract a diverse range of students who wish to make a real difference in the lives of our first-year engineers.
ENG ME! explicitly supports traditionally under-served students as seen in the special mentoring groups for women, Māori, Pasifika, international, and over 22 years old students in engineering. ENG ME! endeavours to help all students develop a feeling of belonging and inclusion in UC Engineering. The diversity of our mentors helps enhance this representation. In addition, we carefully train our mentors and leaders, for example LGBTQIA+ training was added in 2023.
Part of the value of ENG ME! is that it allows real time feedback. If students are struggling with a course or deadline, this can be fed to the course coordinators via the mentors. Students then experience changes that benefit them, as opposed to simply reporting issues so the course can be improved for future years. This real time feedback also assisted in pivoting the program to ensure that our students who started during COVID lockdown (both national and international) were still able to form a sense of belonging to UC at a time when ensuring people felt connected, seen and supported was critical.
Not only does ENG ME! assist our first-year students as they begin their engineering journey, research shows that ENG ME! also impacts those who become mentors as it builds their leadership capabilities and inter-personal skills. By arming our engineering graduates with a wide range of skills, this prepares them to make a difference when they enter the industry.
The way in which ENG ME! has engaged students, supported them, and helped them to grow as people and engineers is the pride of the Engineering Faculty at UC. We hope that the ENVI board can see the positive change we have made in engineering education and that they agree the ENG ME! program is growing inclusive, engaged, and inspired engineers who one day will be the leaders of engineering in New Zealand.