CU-Boulder Engineering Students Earn, Learn Through New Work Opportunities Created By College

October 10, 2006

Engineering students at the University of Colorado at Boulder are finding more meaningful-and often better paying-part-time jobs in their pursuits of education, thanks to a program that also helps the college stretch its limited budget.

Students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science's Earn-Learn Apprenticeship Program draw on their educational experience for a variety of service-oriented work assignments within the college. Examples include assisting faculty with courses, preparing educational materials, designing lab modules, performing computer network improvements or support, assisting with outreach to K-12 students and teachers, and planning and organizing departmental events.

The students typically earn $10 to $12 per hour for up to 10 hours per week each semester, but the department or program where they work pays only half that amount. The other half of the $3,000 to $3,600 per year cost of each apprentice is paid through private gifts designated to support the program or from funds provided by the dean.

More than $300,000 in gifts has been raised to support the Earn-Learn Apprenticeship Program in the last three years.

The program is so popular with private donors-many of whom remember the difficulty of finding good part-time jobs when they were in school-and with the departments and programs who sponsor students that 70 student apprentices were funded this fall. That's up from 15 students when the program was piloted in spring 2004.

The program was launched college-wide in fall 2004 by engineering Dean Robert H. Davis, who pioneered the concept 10 years ago in the chemical and biological engineering department while he was department chair.

"I wanted to expand the program college-wide to help alleviate the need for students to work off campus and at the same time to help them learn technical, leadership, communication and administrative skills," he said. "The concept has resonated with our private donors and is helping the college continue to provide high-

quality experiential education even in times of restricted budgets. At the same time, the apprentices provide an important service by assisting faculty in educating other students."

The Earn-Learn Apprenticeship Program is restricted to engineering students, and undergraduate students outnumber graduate students three-to-one, about the same ratio of undergraduate students to graduate students in the college. Positions are announced by the departments and programs, and selections are made in early fall and spring so as to maximize the number of weeks a student can work each semester.

Jessa Rothenberg, 20, a junior majoring in computer science and Japanese from Aurora, said the best thing about her Earn-Learn Apprenticeship is how much she is learning. "This job gives me the opportunity to learn things that I wouldn't otherwise have learned," said Rothenberg, who is applying her programming skills to write dynamic Web page code for surveys sent out by the college. "It also has given me confidence that I can produce something useful and be paid for it," said Rothenburg of her first paying job. "That's really a nice feeling."

Michael Z. Burns, 19, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering from Phoenix, said he appreciates the opportunity to work on campus because of the multiple demands on his time. "I have friends who work off campus, and it's horrendous," Burns said. "And having donors chip in so we can make a little more money is great."

As a student assistant for the freshman computer-aided design, or CAD, class in mechanical engineering, Burns said he is able to take some of the financial burden off his parents, while also gaining experience that will help set him apart in the job market after graduation.

Earn-Learn apprenticeships fulfill one of the components of the college's Active Learning Award, which is given at graduation to undergraduate engineering students who complete requirements in all three areas of service, discovery and professional learning.

For more information, contact Terry Mayes, director of academic programs and assessment, at (303) 735-6446 or visit: engineering.colorado.edu/activelearning/earnlearn.htm.

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