CCEE launches Peer Advisor program to help students navigate college career

Navigating the academic and social aspects of college and the nuances of engineering can be challenging for many first-time students. To help, CCEE launched a program to bolster the confidence of undergraduate students by connecting them with CCEE Peer Advisors. 

The advisors gave students a tour of Fitts-Woolard Hall’s coastal and traffic engineering research labs, where they learned more about available research opportunities.

Each advisor works with about 10 students within their major for an academic year. Advisees transfer students from other universities or  students who recently changed or added majors/degrees and are now a part of CCEE. The advisors meet with their students on a consistent basis, providing the opportunity to check in, share knowledge, and offer social activities. 

The advisors hosted a gingerbread house competition at the end semester. Students worked in groups of two to decorate gingerbread houses. The winners received CCEE prizes.

“The advisors were chosen based on their strengths of outgoing, respectful, confident, dependable, flexible, collaborative and proactive,” said CCEE Student Services Specialist Rachael Ayres. “Overall, the goal of the program is to foster a sense of community and belonging within the department. We are hoping that students who participate, both as advisors and advisees, feel more connected to CCEE and to NC State.”

Advisor Makayla Thornhill and environmental engineering student Navya Jonnalagadda visited Little Blue Bakehouse for coffee, pastries, and an end-of-semester check-in.

A few of CCEE’s peer advisors shared what being a part of the program means to them, their campus and department involvement, and plans for the future. Answers are edited for clarity and brevity.

 

Andres Aguilar-Alvarez, Civil Engineering, Senior

What does it mean to you to be a peer advisor? What made you want to apply? 

A peer advisor means being an older sibling for those who recently changed majors or transferred into the CCEE department. It means being available to the advisees for any questions they may have about classes, clubs, the department or NC State in general. I applied to become a peer advisor because I like to help people. As a transfer student and first-generation college student, I saw the opportunity to give back to the department by becoming a resource for others who are starting their CCEE careers here at NC State.

What has been your favorite part about being a peer advisor? Any specific memories or events?

My favorite part about being a peer advisor has been checking in with my group on a weekly basis. It’s nice to see what everyone is up to and help answer any questions they may have as the semester goes. The first social event I set up for my group is a nice event to remember because I got to meet my group in person.

Are you involved in any clubs or organizations on campus? 

I am also a student ambassador for the department and an active member in the American Concrete Institute student chapter. 

What has been your favorite class at NC State? 

CE 420 (structural senior design course) has been my favorite class because we are tasked with a project that allows us to apply concepts that we have learned in 300- and 400-level civil engineering courses.

What is your favorite thing about being a CCEE student? 

I love how supportive the department is and how readily available all professors make themselves.

What are your plans after graduation? 

I plan to work and gain experience in the structural industry, focusing on vertical design.

Best advice for CCEE students? 

Become involved in extracurricular activities, whether in student clubs, research, or intramural sports. It’s all beneficial to make connections and make long-lasting friendships.

 

Ellie Hannum, Civil Engineering, Senior

What does it mean to you to be a peer advisor? What made you want to apply? 

I was excited about contributing to strengthening the community of the CCEE department. I understand how challenging it can be to transition into engineering courses, therefore I wanted to be a part of the support system to help students succeed. 

What has been your favorite part about being a peer advisor? Any specific memories or events? 

In October I hosted a de-stress event where we painted pumpkins and ate Halloween candy. 

Are you involved in any clubs or organizations on campus? 

I am involved in The Engineering Place’s STEM Night Program, where I work as the volunteer coordinator to help organize STEM Night events for elementary school students. I am also involved in NC State’s Chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Through ASCE, I am the team captain of the Sustainable Solutions competition, and I am involved on the concrete canoe team. I am also an Engineering Ambassador and Teaching Assistant for the First-Year Engineering Program. 

What has been your favorite class at NC State? 

My favorite class has been CE 583, Engineering Aspects of Coastal Processes. I really enjoy learning how to analyze coastal processes from a civil engineering perspective and how to apply this knowledge to predict how coastal processes might change as a result of climate change. 

What is your favorite thing about being a CCEE student? 

My favorite thing is the relationships I have built with other students in my classes and professors. The close-knit friendships I have made through CCEE have also helped me succeed throughout my academic career — we support one another. 

What are your plans after graduation? 

I plan to work for AECOM as a water resources engineer in Raleigh. I will mainly be working on drinking water and wastewater revitalization projects for military bases throughout the U.S. 

Best advice for CCEE students? 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and take advantage of office hours. 

 

Alvin Mutongi, Civil Engineering, Senior

What does it mean to you to be a peer advisor? What made you want to apply? 

I wanted an opportunity to connect with students who were still early on their journey to earn their degree so I can offer a perspective that may be helpful.  Being a peer advisor means the ability to gain perspective on the challenges students are facing.

What has been your favorite part about being a peer advisor? Any specific memories or events? 

My favorite part is the access it gives me to understand how the department is preparing students. It allows me to gain a different outlook on what was the intended outcome of earlier courses.

Are you involved in any clubs or organizations on campus? 

I am president of the Eta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and the programs chair of the National Society of Black Engineers. I am also a member of the Engineers Without Borders Guatemala Water Systems team.

What has been your favorite class at NC State? 

CE 488, Water Resource Engineering

What is your favorite thing about being a CCEE student? 

My favorite thing is the way the research is accessible to students and impactful on the world.

What are your plans after graduation? 

I plan to work full-time doing water resource engineering. 

Best advice for CCEE students? 

My best piece of advice is to really dedicate yourself to doing the work day-in and day-out. It’s a difficult curriculum, but the best thing you can learn from your 200 level classes is how to work.

 

Makayla Thornhill, Civil Engineering, Senior

What does it mean to you to be a peer advisor? What made you want to apply?

I decided to apply because of my experience as a statics tutor for CCEE. Through that role, I not only have been able to help students as they navigate the course, but I was also offering advice about CCEE opportunities and courses. I felt that a role in peer mentoring was a perfect avenue to assist with those questions from students. My goal as a peer advisor is to provide support for my students, both academically, professionally and emotionally. The target students for our program have faced insurmountable experiences in their freshman year as mental health became a key topic on campus. In addition, these students had to overcome becoming college students after completing a high school career mostly completed over Zoom. I knew I would have benefitted from a program like this; therefore, I wanted to participate and pass along any advice I could to new CCEE students.

What has been your favorite part about being a peer advisor? Any specific memories or events?

Planning events has been my favorite aspect of this role so far. I organized Industry Day this semester, which was an event where 12 professionals gave presentations about their careers to CCEE students. The goal of the event was for students to learn about the various paths one can do with a CCEE degree and to help students create professional connections. Organizing such an event was a new and scary experience for me. However, it was incredibly rewarding to work on an event so that it was mostly seamless the day of.

Are you involved in any clubs or organizations on campus? 

I am an inducted member of Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honors society. Additionally, I am a CCEE tutor for CE 214 and CE 225. I also own a small business and am a creator for Student Made NC State. While I make different types of art, my favorite is creating wheel thrown pottery at NC State’s Craft Center.

What has been your favorite class at NC State?

My favorite class was CE 509: Highway Safety with Professor Billy Williams. I took this course as part of my Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s program coursework as a junior. This class showed me the complex nature of predicting crashes and how to implement countermeasures to improve safety. This class was an eye-opener to a facet of transportation engineering that I didn’t know existed, and it challenged me like no other class has. Additionally, I have garnered a great appreciation for CE 214: Statics by tutoring the course for the past three semesters. While the class challenged me when I took it as a student, over time I have recognized intricacies in the theories behind the course content. The best feeling in the world is teaching these theories to students; I feel so much joy and satisfaction when I have helped them understand a complex topic.  

What is your favorite thing about being a CCEE student?

My favorite thing is the community I feel with the undergraduate office and faculty. I started at NC State in Fall 2020, so I lacked a sense of community until sophomore or junior year. Once I got past the critical path courses, I began to recognize peers who I had multiple classes with. When you take multiple classes with other students, you create a relationship that improves your experience. Additionally, as I became more involved with tutoring, peer mentoring and graduate courses, I have been able to create meaningful connections with professors and the CCEE Undergraduate Office. These connections provide a great network of support that I longed for freshman year.

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be graduating this December! Directly after graduation, I will be returning as a graduate student in Transportation Systems. Since I will have completed four graduate courses as an undergrad student, it will only take two semesters to finish my graduate degree. I also plan to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam in February. After graduating with my master’s in December 2024, I plan to work as a traffic engineer at a transportation design firm that I previously interned for.

Best advice for CCEE students?

Find your community — your support system. It sounds a lot easier than it is; however the support you can receive from others will only bolster you and your own self-confidence. Talk to your professors and create a relationship with them as you may have them again in a future semester. Reaching out to your peers and professors will hopefully provide the support you need to succeed, graduate and start your career!

 

Brandon Tucker, Civil Engineering, Senior

What does it mean to you to be a peer advisor? What made you want to apply?

I have the opportunity to share my personal experiences in CCEE with new undergraduates, from classes to research to extracurriculars. I was specifically drawn to the position because I enjoy serving in mentor-style roles, and I’ve been pretty involved with the department over the past few years. I think it’s a fantastic way to bridge connections between different classes in CCEE.

What has been your favorite part about being a peer advisor? Any specific memories or events?

My favorite part has been meeting motivated undergraduates and helping put them in positions to succeed. I specifically enjoyed the beginning of this semester when I was able to help my advisees find clubs that fit their interests and give them a space to build connections. I also really enjoyed class advising over the past few weeks, because I was able to walk through degree plans with several students and help them become more confident in their path over the next few years at NC State.

Are you involved in any clubs or organizations on campus? 

I’m involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) on the Concrete Canoe and Sustainable Solutions teams, and I’m a part of the Caldwell Fellows program. I’ve also been a resident advisor in the first-year Engineering Village, worked in the Coastal Engineering Lab in Fitts-Woolard Hall and had the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland with the CCEE department!

What has been your favorite class at NC State?

My favorite class at NC State was actually not in civil engineering, but Landscape Architecture; the course was called “Sustainable Design and Development.” This class helped me realize my specific interest in urban planning within civil engineering as well as gain interdisciplinary perspectives on many of the issues civil engineers face.

What is your favorite thing about being a CCEE student?

It’s hard to pick just one! My favorite part of being a CCEE student is the department-wide support that I feel, from teachers who are passionate about what they teach to advisors who truly care about my success as a student, and even research mentors and study abroad faculty who continue to check in with me and support my success. It’s very clear to me that the people that make up the CCEE department are here because they care about what they do and the people they impact.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I’ll be returning for the Accelerated Bachelor-Master’s ABM degree program in civil engineering, concentrating in transportation systems. Along the way, I plan to pursue an internship where I can work in transportation systems planning and engineering, which is where I see myself after my master’s graduation.

Best advice for CCEE students?

Get involved early! I highly recommend joining ASCE for both the student community and the academic/professional connections. I’ve only become involved with ASCE this year, but the Concrete Canoe team is already one of my favorite things I do! I also highly recommend becoming involved with undergraduate research, even just for one semester. The CCEE faculty, across the board, are fantastic mentors and want to help students grow. I’ve made some of my most valuable connections and career decisions because of research.