Experiential learning is all about gaining “experience.” It literally is the name of the game, as students are provided with unique opportunities that bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical skills through “learning by doing” experiences.
Vaughn’s experiential learning opportunities
At Vaughn, students receive more than just an education. They receive priceless exposure to learning experiences that complement—or build upon—their classroom instructions in the fields they love most. What’s great about Vaughn is that it is innately an experiential college, due to the hands-on nature of its programs in engineering, technology, management and aviation. Robotics engineers, drone pilots and aircraft mechanics, for example, are constantly working with their hands to design, build, test, learn and improve. Vaughn’s engineering labs, flight simulator complex, air traffic control room and aviation training institute were built for the purpose of providing hands-on, experiential learning environments for students.
Here, we look at the various kinds of experiential learning opportunities Vaughn offers and how they are giving students a competitive edge in today’s workforce landscape.
Professional conferences and networking events provide students with priceless exposure to potential jobs, networking opportunities and unparalleled learning experiences in their fields. At these events, Vaughn students have opportunities to present their research projects or papers to showcase their hard work, attract employers and ultimately make vital industry connections that lead to internships and jobs.
Here is a sampling of some of the conferences Vaughn students attend every year:
There’s no denying that landing an internship in your field of study is one of the best ways to gain practical experience and learn if it’s a company and position you can see yourself at for the long-term. By applying the knowledge you’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world setting, you can acquire hands-on experience while developing important workforce skills related to communication, teamwork and problem solving. Vaughn continues to strengthen and grow its employer relationships in the fields of aviation, engineering and management. Some of these companies where students obtain internships include Boeing, LaGuardia Gateway Partners, PANYNJ, Honeywell, Department of Defense, Spirit Airlines, Delta TechOps, Northrop Grumman and several airlines/airports, to name a few.
Multifaceted career support
Vaughn’s career services department helps students through every step of the job placement process – from helping make industry connections, resume writing and interview practice. The career services department organizes two large career fairs on campus every year where students can meet and gather information about potential employers. (Some students even receive internship and job opportunities during these events.) Employer Engagement Days are yet another way that students can make connections with employers. Employers are available on certain days/times and Vaughn students can schedule in-person or Zoom sessions to discuss potential job opportunities.
Student clubs and activities
It’s true that college students need to work hard—but learning is fun when you love what you’re doing. Vaughn offers an abundance of clubs and activities where students can use their hands-on abilities to hone their skills in a relaxed environment with peers who share the same interests.
Below are just a few examples of Vaughn’s experiential clubs and programs:
Mars Rover Club—Vaughn’s new Mars Rover club is tasked with designing, building and testing lightweight, human-powered rovers on a complex obstacle course. The team recently traveled to Huntsville, Alabama to compete in the Human Exploration Rover Challenge (HERC).
Robotics Team—Vaughn’s robotics team builds award-winning robots that compete in the VEX Robotics World Championship. Vaughn’s robotics team has won several awards at these competitions over the years, including the world title.
UAV Club—The uncrewed aerial vehicle club promotes safe, knowledgeable design, construction, and use of drone technology. The UAV team participates in several national competitions each year.
FAA-UAS certificate program—This cutting-edge certificate program prepares any interested and qualified student to become an uncrewed aircraft systems operator (UAS) while he or she gains hands-on experience in 3D printing and design/construction. Students will receive the skills they need to earn a remote pilot certificate to operate a UAS. We are proud to announce that seven Vaughn students are graduating from the UAS program in 2023! We can’t wait to see what their futures will bring.
Are you ready to gain hands-on experience in something you love doing? Check out Vaughn’s free STEM-focused experiential learning summer programs. Students can earn college credit for engineering and gain valuable industry know-how—all while having fun! Which one will you choose this summer?
It’s college fair time and we have great tips to help you make the most of these fantastic networking events which are held right on college campuses. At these events, students can network, speak with employers and fellow students and even have an opportunity to interview and land an internship right on the spot!
We had the opportunity to talk to Chaundra Daniels, director of career services at Vaughn, to learn about the benefits of attending a career fair and valuable tips to make the most of these incredible employment opportunities.
Why attend a career fair?
Career fairs offer students a variety of unique benefits that can give them a jump-start in the job search process. Industry-relevant employers come to the college fairs searching for eager young minds to join their companies in a variety capacities. It’s an opportunity for both the employer and student to interact and see if it might be good a fit from both sides. There’s literature about each company, the jobs that are available and next steps for students to take should they want to learn more or apply to certain internship and job opportunities. Students may also have the chance to have a screening or on-the-spot interview right then and there, to be considered for an immediate position, which is one of the biggest perks to attending a career fair.
Daniels explained how these career fairs are not just for seniors. “We welcome underclassmen, as well as junior and seniors, to our career fairs. It’s important to develop these relationships early on—especially for purposes of landing internships.” There are so many benefits to landing an internship during college – among them are:
Give students a competitive edge over their peers.
Provide hands-on experience
Opens the door to possible full-time employment after graduation
Provides invaluable real-world work experience, as more internships lead to more options when applying for a job—such as salary negotiation, for example
Personal insight into whether a job is right (it’s a short-term opportunity to try something out)
How to prepare for a career fair
If you are wondering how to prepare for a career fair, imagine that it is a job interview. It’s all about bringing you’re A-game and looking your best. Remember: You’re competing against your peers for these in-demand jobs. Who are the employers going to take seriously—a student in ripped jeans and a t-shirt or one who’s dressed professionally? Daniels offers some valuable tips on how to prepare for a successful career fair experience:
Research and prioritize employers: Do your homework, know something about the companies you are interested in, have questions prepared and listen to what the recruiters share about their opportunities. (Each Employer has a QR code on their table for you to scan and review their website and available opportunities.)
Bring your updated résumé: Review and update your resume ahead of time and bring at least 10 copies to the event. Employers may ask for it.
Talk to other students: You will probably have to stand in line while waiting for your turn to talk to each employer, and you should use that time wisely. Ask other students who they’ve spoken with and what their impressions were. This might inspire you to connect with companies you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
Arrive early: Allow yourself enough time to speak with as many employers as you had planned, plus a few extra.
Be courteous: You should always show courtesy and respect to every prospective employer. If it helps, think of them as if they are your manager.
Ask questions and take notes: It’s a good idea to write down the answers to the questions you ask throughout the career fair. You should also consider making a note of any information employers give you about applying for their positions and working for their companies.
Daniels stated that when it comes to hiring, it’s always an employer’s market. “Students must remember that employers want the best of the best when hiring for a position in their company,” she said. “Landing a job is never a guarantee. It’s important to remain focused throughout the entire interview process. It’s a fight to the very end.”
Here are two nuggets of wisdom that Daniels offered to keep in mind when interviewing for a job:
A résumé may get you an interview. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll be hired for the job.
An interview is a conversation. This is the only time you can brag about yourself. Be clear, be succinct and always be yourself. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. It’s about seeing if it’s a good fit for both sides.
Vaughn provides the tools and resources students need for a successful career
As part of Vaughn’s commitment to the success of its students, Daniels was excited to share information about the newly revamped Career Development course that Vaughn offers. The course gives students assistance with their job and internship research, resume and cover letter development, networking and interviewing tips and more. Students leave the course prepared to conduct their job search with all the tools they need to succeed.
“I’m excited that our students have these opportunities,” Daniels said. “Vaughn had the vision to incorporate this class into its curricula. Graduates from Vaughn leave with a job, it’s as simple as that. And the Vaughn Guarantee shows the College’s commitment to students’ success.”
Vaughn’s Spring 2023 Career Fair is Thursday, March 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the main campus which is open to all students and alumni. With more than 250 students attending and 30+ employers, Chaundra said that the event is sure to be a big success.
Vaughn students and industry leaders are enjoying a new engagement opportunity through Employer Engagement Days, an exciting career development program which was created to streamline the student engagement process with Employers after returning to campus during the pandemic.
This month, we sat down with the Director of Career Services Chaundra Daniels and developer of Employer Engagement Days, to learn how her decades of experience and insight into the value of internships led her to her new position at Vaughn and the creation of this new engagement opportunity.
Daniels’ path to Vaughn
For over 20 years, Daniels has devoted her career to helping others develop their career paths and employer relations skills. Over the years, she’s held several positions as a vocational counselor and job coach and developer, which included helping adults with learning disabilities. Daniels’ experience as a seasoned professional expands beyond higher education. She worked in patient relations in the healthcare industry and in project management in corporate America. After scaling back her hours in the workforce to care for her father, Daniels decided it was time to return to work full-time. Last November, she joined Vaughn as director of career services. “I’m excited about my role at Vaughn,” she said. “I believe my experience helped build the solid foundation I needed to bring me to where I am today. I feel like this is my calling—my passion.”
Employer Engagement Days
Last month, Daniels kicked off Employer Engagement Days as a new initiative to streamline the employer engagement process for Vaughn students and industry leaders looking to hire. “I developed Employer Engagement Days in response to both employer and student requests for a more efficient and convenient way for students and industry leaders to meet by accommodating both their schedules,” she explained. The program is designed to emulate the hybrid classroom style that is currently in place at Vaughn. The process is more casual and less stressful, thus allowing representatives from corporations to interview students on an individual basis, without the pressure and time constraints of traditional large networking events and career fairs.
Employer Engagement Days are offered both in-person—and virtually via Zoom—on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. “We have had a great response to Employer Engagement Days,” Daniels said. “Work is about building relationships. This program helps to level the playing field, removing the competition and giving both the student and employer the time they need to determine if they’re a good fit for each other.”
Where the jobs are
Daniels is thrilled to say that jobs are in demand. She explained how industry giants such as Delta and American Airlines—along with Republic Airways and Lufthansa—are “knocking on our doors” to fill positions. LaGuardia Gateway Partners recently approached Vaughn to set up an internship program for students which will likely roll out by fall 2022. The aviation and engineering job markets are booming—with management openings not far behind. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to see our students’ dreams become reality,” said Daniels. “Vaughn students are disciplined, motivated and committed. They know what they want and can see beyond current challenges. There’s nothing better than seeing a student overcome obstacles and live their own passions. Internships are an instrumental way to make that happen.”
Adjusting to the “new normal”
The pandemic may have brought several challenges to the world, but it has also presented the College with opportunities for a brighter future. Daniels said she’s proud to see how resilient Vaughn students are when it comes to adaptability. “The trend is a new normal,” she said. “Our students are creating ‘the new’ by thinking outside the box and having these unprecedented job opportunities resulting from the pandemic. Today, the employers are coming to us.”
With years of career services experience to her name, Chaundra Daniels knows the value that students can bring to the table when it comes to facilitating the best career services experience. Shortly after accepting her position at Vaughn, she added two valuable members to her career services team. The first is Assistant Director of Career Services Rosario Sutton, HSI-STEM internship coordinator. The second is Assistant Director of Career Services for the Aviation Training Institute and Aviation Bryan Arias. “Students are our greatest resource,” Daniels said. “Our three-person team works wonderfully together and with students. Bryan and Rosario bring a fresh perspective to our department. We strive to work appropriately and effectively by bringing our A-game each day.”
Are you looking for an internship? The career services department at Vaughn offers valuable resources to ensure you will land a futureproof career.
The excitement is building at Vaughn as the College’s robotics team gears up for the 2022 VEX Robotics World Championship after having won several awards at qualifying matches held earlier this year. The 15-member team is hard at work with hopes to regain the World Championship title from their 2016 win. With only weeks to go, it’s sure to be a fun and action-packed competition which is being held from May 3-12 in Dallas, Texas.
This year, the name of the game is VEX Robotics Competition Tipping Point—an exciting challenge based on the elements of football. The game will be played on a 12′ x 12′ square field. Two alliances (one “red” and one “blue”)— each composed of two teams—will compete in matches consisting of a 15-second (0:15) “Autonomous Period,” followed by a one-minute-and-forty-five second (1:45) “Driver Controlled Period.” The object of the game is to score rings, moving mobile goals to alliance zones and by elevating them on platforms at the end of a match. The team to score the highest number of points is declared the winner.
Building the robot
Driving the excitement is team president and mechatronic engineering major, Misael Marquez ’22. Entering his fourth year on the team—and first year as acting president of the club—Marquez explains how the team began building their robot last July. “The first design took one month to plan and one week to build,” he said. “We are now on our fifth design and built a twin to our robot as a backup.” He said the diverse talents of the team members—which range from mechanical engineering and mechatronic engineering majors to management—was the winning combination to delegate the tasks required to build the robot. “Everyone has a valuable role on our team,” Marquez said. “From those who are tasked with designing the robot to others who focus on the rebuild, we all work together as a team. It’s rewarding to watch the classroom come to life as we use our knowledge of mechanical theories, moments and statics, and apply to it to the robot’s design for the competition.”
Winning tournament awards
The team participated in three qualifying tournaments earlier this year, where they placed first in two of the three matches. At the first VEX U tournament, which was held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worchester, MA at the end of January, the team won the Robot Skills Championship Award and the Excellence Award. At the second tournament, the team placed first; and at the third tournament, they won a second Robot Skills Championship Award and Excellence Award.
Planning for competition
When it comes to gaining field advantage, Marquez said it’s all about strategy and design. He explained that a major advantage of competing in the qualifying matches is having the opportunity to see the opponent’s robots and how they react. This insight, he said, helps the team build accordingly. “Robots get a little beat up during the qualifying rounds,” he explained. “Seeing our competition gives us an inside edge to upgrading our robot to make it more competitive—faster and more efficient.”
Silver lining to the pandemic
Although it’s no surprise that the pandemic was a challenging time for students, Marquez said his team used that time to hone their skills. “We all worked remotely but that didn’t stop us from improving our designs.” This year, he said the team is able to work together without any restrictions, which makes the process more exciting. “COVID empowered the team to prepare for this year’s competition,” Marquez said proudly. “We are excited to be competing against larger colleges and even more excited to go for the win. Everyone at the competition is friendly, but when it comes to the team to beat—all bets are off on the field!”
Marquez shares his leadership with Christopher Walker ’24, vice president of the robotics team. Walker, who is studying mechatronic engineering, said the team’s spirit is soaring. “This is an exciting time for our team,” Walker said. “We are confident in our abilities. We believe in our robots, and we believe in ourselves. Our amazing teamwork work has us ready for the win!”
Leaving his legacy
With graduation quickly approaching, Marquez reflects on his years at Vaughn as well as his time spent on the robotics team. “I’ve always had a passion for robots,” he expressed. “So, choosing Vaughn to study mechatronic engineering was an easy choice for me.” Marquez plans to work in robotics after graduation with the hope to someday build robots to be used on the International Space Station. “Vaughn has been instrumental is giving me the foundation I need to pursue my dreams in robotics,” said Marquez. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead the robotics team this year as president.” When asked about leaving a legacy at Vaughn, Marquez replied: “I hoped my time and dedication to the team would be my legacy but winning the championship and regaining the title would be the ultimate way to leave my mark at Vaughn. We are dedicated to the competition and are preparing for the win!”
Are you interested in building robotics or simply figuring out how things work? Consider coming to Vaughn to earn a valuable degree in engineering and technology at Vaughn. See what the VCAT robotics team is up to by following them on Twitch, Instagram and Facebook. Stay tuned for recap of the results from the VEX Robotics World Championship at the end of May.
’Tis the season—for final exams, projects and papers, that is. Just think—in a few short weeks, the semester will end and you’ll be ready to enjoy your holiday break with friends and family. Until then, it’s time for one last round of studying or putting the finishing touches on your project.
We’ve come up with the best ways to study for final exams, work on projects or write papers that will keep you calm, focused and ready to conquer. So, sit back, relax and take it all in. Oh, and no note taking is required.
Set a study schedule
The chances of you having more than one final exam this semester is pretty high, so the first thing you should do is check the due dates of each exam or project and plan a schedule around them. If you are working on a group project, plan dates and times that people can get together to work on it and include those in your overall study schedule. Set boundaries and limits for the amount of time you can study for each class – this brings us to our next tip!
Prioritize the material
Part of the game plan is to prioritize what material for each class may require more time to focus on. For exams, the best way to approach this is to break everything down into three categories:
Material that will definitely be on the exam.
Material that will probably be on the exam.
And (the dreaded) material that “might be” on the exam.
If you have a good handle on one portion of the material, then you know you’ll need to spend more time on the other sections.
Make your own study guide
It’s great if your professor has put together a study guide for you but you may also benefit from making your own. Recreating the material in your own words not only reinforces your knowledge of the material, but it’s as if you are teaching yourself the material in your own way that makes sense to you.
Organize or join a study group
Ever hear the expression, “Two heads are better than one”? People have been “brainstorming” for centuries, although the term is new to the modern world. When it comes to studying, not everyone has the same style. The beauty of a study session is the combining of different study styles and the bouncing of ideas and material off one another. You’ll be surprised at how just listening to the way someone else explains certain material may help your own understanding of the subject. Additionally, being in the same study boat with your friends can help relieve the pre-exam jitters.
Take practice tests
They say, “practice makes perfect.” Unfortunately, we can’t go so far as to say that taking practice tests will earn you a perfect grade on the final. What we can say, however, is that studies have shown that taking practice tests improves performance on exams. Since the chances of seeing a version of the final exam is slim, experts suggest using flash cards to quiz yourself and your friends on the material. This study tip is an important step in keeping your mind sharp, focused and ready for exam day.
Did you know that taking a five-minute break every hour does your brain good? It’s true. One of the keys to successful studying is to take a “brain break.” Use that time to stretch, take a quick walk or grab a bottle of water and a healthy snack. Did someone mention food? That brings us to our next tip.
Eat healthy and get enough sleep
You’ve heard it a thousand times: It’s important to eat healthy and get enough sleep, when in fact the reality for most college students is dining on pizza, chugging energy drinks and burning the midnight oil. It’s hard to turn down a pizza, but instead of overloading on heavy food that can make you sluggish and lose your focus, experts suggest stocking up on water, nuts, yogurt and other healthy foods. And, if you must indulge in sweets, try to limit the sugar as much as possible – this will avoid a sugar crash!
Take a deep breath and know you’ve got this. Staying positive and visualizing yourself doing well on the exam can also help! And remember—your mental health and wellbeing are what truly matter.
The engineering and technology department at Vaughn College hosted its Seventh Annual Manufacturing Day Conference which took place virtually on October 29, 2021. Participants—which included the Vaughn community, students, and industry advisory members—were enlightened by a diverse group of six industry leaders who discussed the latest innovations in the fields of biomedical manufacturing, aerospace virtual reality and manufacturing, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, and 3D scanning and precision measurement tools.
About the conference
In celebration of National Manufacturing Day, the conference focused on the advancements in the engineering and technology industries and showcased the opportunities for manufacturers to highlight their work while raising awareness about the advantages of pursuing a career in manufacturing.
As part of Vaughn’s ongoing commitment to the futureproof education of its students, we were honored to host this year’s presenters, who discussed how the latest cutting-edge technologies are proving to be solutions to some of today’s modern-day challenges. Here is a quick recap of what the six presenters discussed:
Diogo Roquette Osorio: Director of Engineering at East Coast Orthotic and Prosthetic Corporation
Osorio, the Director of Engineering at East Coast Orthotic and Prosthetic Corp., discussed the challenges of producing surgical masks during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the demand and short supply of masks, Osorio explained how he and his team established a local automated production line that quickly and efficiently produced masks while maintaining ISO standards and compliance. Their ingenuity and rapid response enabled them to produce masks two years ahead of competitors.
Jefferson Maldonado ‘16: Senior Robotics Engineer at ArcBest Technologies
As a Vaughn graduate and former robotics club president, Maldonado is a perfect example of how hard work and an engineering degree from Vaughn—is a winning combination to a futureproof career. As senior robotics engineer at ArcBest Technologies, Maldonado’s presentation focused on autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), along with a variety of robot deployment regimes that relate to manufacturing and logistics. He discussed the progress of emerging technologies such as AMRs and their advantages in comparison to automatic guided vehicles (AGVs). Additionally, he addressed concerns such as path planning, cybersecurity and efficient deployment. Maldonado closed his presentation with the exciting announcement that ArcBest is hiring new engineers for career opportunities in robotics development.
Christian Gerbick and Dan McConnell: Territory Managers at EMS3D (Engineering and Manufacturing Services)
Industry experts Gerbick and McConnell from EMS3D presented information about metrology-grade advanced 3D scanners. They gave an informative overview of scanning technology, followed by an impressive demonstration that featured several high-profile 3D scanning case studies in the military and consumer aerospace fields. The scanners featured had the power to scan a variety of objects that ranged from small tabletop items to full-scale aircraft interiors and exteriors at high resolution.
Dr. George Kyriakou: Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer at BotFactory
BotFactory produces circuit board 3D printers. Dr. Kyriako spoke about his extensive work in the development of amplitude modulation (AM) for electronics and explained how this new aspect of the 3D printing landscape is changing the way printed circuit board (PCB) and electronics design is conducted. The use of his 3D PCB printing technology allows fully functional prototypes to be developed in rapid sequence, in contrast to traditional PCB related electronics development—which can take weeks to design and iterate.
Michael Nager: Co-founder of The Solution Center at Festo Didactic
Nager delivered an intriguing presentation about cybersecurity and artificial intelligence in the field of manufacturing engineering. As an industry 4.0 expert, he led the discussion, and identified career opportunities in 4.0 manufacturing, which include collaborative robotics experts and lead engineers who deliver solutions in modern manufacturing by leveraging robotics and management experience. In terms of cybersecurity, Nager explained how programmable logic controller (PLC) devices and interconnected network devices were seen as a venerable attach surface in the industry’s 4.0 manufacturing infrastructure. He showed how network security tactics—such as a demilitarized zone (DMZ), subnetting and proper sub-segmenting of networks—are viable methods to protect factory PLCs from attack. An important takeaway was his explanation of how the maintenance of secure manufacturing networks has grown beyond “on-the-job training” that now requires a focused educational program to deliver results. Nager’s company, Festo Didactic, has developed a comprehensive curriculum and courseware training product to properly prepare engineers in cybersecurity.
Olesya Kopteva: Training and 3D Scanning Team Leader, Artec 3D
Kopteva continued on the topic of 3D scanning with her presentation on Artec 3D scanner hardware, which included the new Space Spider and Eva range of scanners. She presented post-processing of 3D scans using Scan Studio 16. The results revealed this as an asset in post-processing 3D scans for consumer, medical, reverse engineering and entertainment computer graphic industries. Artec scanners feature high-quality, best-in-class 3D scanning technology—and comparative low pricing—for the education and engineering markets. Since 2015, Vaughn faculty and staff have utilized Artec scanners for work in club activities, technology presentations, degree projects, outreach activities and course offerings.
Q&A with Dr. Hossein Rahemi, Chair of Engineering and Technology Department at Vaughn
Q: Virtual reality and artificial intelligence are playing big roles in today’s manufacturing industries. In your opinion, what does the future look like?
A: Today, we are learning through data collection, programming, AI, and virtual reality that functionality, safety, and productivity can be facilitated and further enhanced. As a matter of fact, the AI contributed to the advancement of manufacturing process through automation and autonomous mobile robots. Virtual reality in manufacturing is used for training environments, product development, visualization, and product configuration simulators. This sort of visualization speeds up safety and the product development process through robust interactive experience that facilitates rapid decision making and approvals.
Q: What are the best engineering degrees offered by Vaughn to prepare for today’s most in-demand jobs?
A: All of our engineering degrees meet the specific needs of today’s industry employers. For manufacturing and automation, specifically, our mechatronic engineering and mechanical engineering degrees, along with additive manufacturing—or 3D printing—are proving to be excellent degrees to pursue. Our students are receiving job offers prior to graduation from prestigious companies such as Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Volvo and others.
Q:This year, high school students also attended the conference. Were there any specific topics that resonated with them?
A: Yes! The high school students loved the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and robots. It’s not only cool to see and learn about, but it resonates with an appreciation for the engineering field and development process. The students love the challenge. It’s a hands-on field where they can compete against each other and see their efforts put into action.
Do you have a passion for engineering? Discover how an engineering degree from Vaughn College will set you on a futureproof path to some of today’s most sought-after careers. Apply today.
With a new semester in full swing and students easing their way back to campus, life at Vaughn College is engaging and fun, thanks to a post-pandemic hybrid learning model that is creating a positive vibe for new and returning students.
This month, we sat down with Dr. Stacey Dutil, director of counseling and wellness at Vaughn, for her outlook on students returning to campus, how Vaughn supports them in their times of need and some tips and advice for staying mentally fit.
A big part of a student’s success in college is making connections and feeling like part of an inclusive, supportive community. At Vaughn, we make this a priority. Dutil explains how the hybrid model that has been instituted this semester allows students to attend classes both virtually and in-person. “It’s been wonderful seeing students connecting with their peers and meeting with their advisors again after being separated during the pandemic,” said Dutil. “Vaughn does a great job keeping students engaged, which helps with any anxiety or stress they may be feeling.”
She describes some valuable ways in which Vaughn is helping students stay mentally healthy while keeping them on track and in a positive groove:
Orientation mixers—Vaughn hosted several orientation luncheons/mixers earlier this semester, where students were excited to meet the faculty and staff while hearing all about the upcoming year. “The vibe was upbeat and positive,” Dutil said. “It was great to see happy faces after so many of our students went through a difficult time during the pandemic. Vaughn always puts their students first, and these mixers are just another way the College proves their dedication to their success.”
Clubs and organizations—There is life outside of the classroom and joining one or more of Vaughn’s vast selection of clubs and organizations is a great way for students to stay engaged in their fields of study while making friends, networking and building leadership skills. From student clubs and professional organizations to honor societies and intercollegiate athletics, Dutil says clubs and organizations are a big aspect of student life at Vaughn. “There’s something for everyone.”
Safe outdoor activities—Vaughn knows the importance of maintaining good mental health. The College hosts several fun and valuable outdoor activities that not only bring students together but also help keep their minds and bodies in shape. Weather permitting, students can enjoy Zumba classes, food trucks and even puppy therapy! Check out our events schedule to see what’s coming up.
Meeting the needs of students
The pandemic affected students and their families harder than anyone could have expected. Dutil explained how Vaughn has several programs in place to help students—and their families—during their times of need. “Hard times can happen to anyone. And at Vaughn, we are here for all of our students to help them the best we can.” She also highlighted the several programs Vaughn has in place to help students who might need extra support to get through the day-to-day.
Food pantry—Vaughn’s on-campus food pantry provides meals for students and their families who are struggling to make ends meet. “We remained open, even during the pandemic,” Dutil said. “Thanks to the generosity of our faculty and staff, donations of food and gift cards have helped us meet the basic needs of our students and their families.”
Short-term assistance fund (SAF)—Life happens. Vaughn’s short-term assistance fund (SAF) is there when students find themselves in unfortunate situations and are in urgent need of financial assistance. These funds—that are generously donated to Vaughn—are a one-time grant and are slated for assisting students with housing and transportation, food and clothing, and other educational-related items such as books, supplies and tools. Help is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Tips and advice to stay mentally fit
As director of counseling and wellness at Vaughn, Dutil is committed to ensuring that students have all the tools and information they need to stay mentally healthy. She emphasizes two basic and underestimated practices that students—and anyone—should do that will positively impact their everyday living.
Get enough sleep—It may sound simplistic but getting enough sleep impacts not only a student’s mood but also significantly improves his or her cognitive focus for retaining information and even helps with metabolism. She suggests that students develop a consistent routine to ensure they’re feeling great and at the top of their games.
Stay hydrated—Staying hydrated is more important than one would think. Did you know that water is a natural energy booster that can make a person feel sharper and more alert? Dutil suggests limiting popular energy drinks and opt for water instead.
Find time to exercise—Even if it’s just a 20-minute walk after lunch, any kind of exercise can reinvigorate the mind and give students the energy they need to get through their next class or assignment. It’s about making the time for it!
“Vaughn has a special approach that focuses on students’ needs. Faculty and staff collaborate to reach students on a personal level. By putting a face to the name, we are able to tailor a plan for their success.”
Are you feeling mentally fit this semester? If you need someone to talk to or want more information on staying mentally healthy, we encourage you to make an appointment at the office of counseling and wellness.
If you study to music, then you’re already “in tune” with the amazing effects it may have for helping put your brain in optimum study mode. But did you know that certain genres of music could set the tone for even greater concentration, focus and well-being?
As we kick off a new semester, we’d like to introduce the latest music craze to add to your study playlist. It’s called “lo-fi,” and it’s getting high marks from students across the globe for its positive effects on helping them bring their A-game when it comes to reducing stress, increasing focus and keeping them relaxed while studying. Haven’t heard of lo-fi music? Grab your earbuds as we tell you all about it.
What is lo-fi music?
Low-fidelity music, or lo-fi, is music that is recorded with intentional imperfections, such as misplayed notes, environmental noise, low hum, or phonographic audio imperfections. Unlike hi-fidelity, or hi-fi, which is the high-quality reproduction of sound, the imperfect elements of lo-fi music are a popular choice when it comes to the positive results when studying is concerned. So, why would imperfect sound be one of the perfect genres to study to? Sit back and take a listen as you hear why. Lo-fi music helps the front lobe in our brain to focus – those flaws or low hums can also put the brain in the mindset to focus.
Why lo-fi is a popular playlist choice
Music speaks a universal language, so it comes as no surprise that students from all walks of life enjoy the wonder of music while studying. Some of the reasons as to why lo-fi is so popular are:
Relaxing effect and perfect tempo to keep listeners engaged without making them sleepy
As there are no lyrics, there are no distractions, which leads to better reading comprehension and writing
Listeners keep lo-fi on an endless loop, keeping music predictable and not a distraction while studying
And, if those aren’t good enough reasons to give lo-fi a try, here are some other reasons on how music can help you focus when you need it most:
Mood booster—Music can lift your spirits, even after a long, hard day. Playing your favorite tunes can be all you need to turn your frown upside down.
Positive attitude—The right kind of music can make you happy and help kick-start a study session. It’s been said that happy people tend to be more productive. In fact, people who listen to music may be happier than those who don’t.
Drowns out distracting noises—Does the sound of background noise make you irritable? Listening to music is a great way to drown out annoying background noises and help you focus on the task at hand. If possible, consider in investing in a quality set of headphones or earbuds for optimum sound quality and noise cancellation.
An “alternative” decision
Lo-fi music is considered an “alternative” genre of music—and for good reason. It’s not only easy to listen to, but it’s also easy to produce since there are no lyrics. Ever thought of becoming a songwriter? Try producing some music on your phone or laptop.
One of the most popular app services is FL Studio. Or, Apple and Android users can try those respective sites to create their own lo-fi playlists.
Creating a playlist
It may sound obvious, but research revealed that brain function decreases when you listen to music and sounds you don’t enjoy, making it difficult to focus and concentrate. So, be sure to choose music and sounds that make you happy. Here are some tips for creating your playlist:
Create your playlist in advance, so you won’t be fumbling to find a new song every few minutes.
Keep your playlist to around 40-50 minutes. This is a great reminder to take a study break when it’s over. Plus, it helps you plan your study sessions to meet your concentration level.
Avoid listening to the radio. Dialogue between radio personalities and commercials can be distracting.
Turn it down. Listening to music at a moderate level is best.
With the new semester kicking off, this is the best time to add lo-fi music to your playlist so it’s ready to go when you need it. Happy listening!
The future of underserved, low-income and first-generation college students is hopeful, thanks to college mentoring programs like College Possible’s Catalyze, which helps augment existing on-campus college success programming. For the past two years, Catalyze coaches have been instrumental in guiding eligible Vaughn College students to graduation day by empowering them to achieve their goals.
We spoke with Lauren Cajade, assistant director, Higher Education Opportunity Program, at Vaughn for her insights on the success of the College’s partnership with Catalyze, and the excitement surrounding the hiring of three new near-peer coaches—one of whom is a recent Vaughn graduate—to kick off the 2021-2022 school year.
Vaughn’s Catalyze partnership
Entering its third year, Vaughn’s partnership with the Catalyze program has continued to offer eligible first year students the opportunity to work with near-peer coaches. Coaches receive comprehensive training and curriculum support from Catalyze to guide them in providing pro-active, high-touch student interventions that help students overcome some of the most common barriers to persistence and graduation. “Working with our coaches gives our students an extra set of hands to get through college,” said Cajade. She explained how students receive support from both academic and student affairs, which provides a well-rounded experience to give students a sense of community on campus. “From getting help with registration and scheduling, to learning about financial aid and filling out the FAFSA, our coaches guide students every step of the way—right up until graduation day.”
Who is eligible?
Vaughn will reach out to eligible students who qualify for the program. Eligible students are not required to participate; however, those who do will be assigned to a near-peer coach. Students must meet the following specific criteria to qualify for the Catalyze program:
First-generation college student
How Catalyze coaches support eligible Vaughn students
Near-peer coaches are often recent graduates who may have similar backgrounds as the ones they support. Each coach has committed to a year of service as an AmeriCorps member and receives a living stipend as well as a modest education award for their service. A key factor in becoming a coach is they must demonstrate a passion for helping the next generation of graduates. Cajade explained how they undergo in-depth training, learning about the rules and regulations of College Possible, and Title IX training for Vaughn. “In addition to their regular training, we believe it’s important for our coaches to become familiar with the names of our department heads and the roles they serve,” said Cajade. “This is an important part of how the mentors can effectively direct our students to the proper person when they need help.”
Here are some ways near-peer coaches support their students:
Connecting to existing campus and community resources
Social-emotional skill development
Finding scholarships and completing financial aid applications
Coaches use the program’s proven, evidence-based model and proprietary curriculum to guide students through their college experience. Here are the core areas they focus on:
How College Possible makes it possible for students to succeed
College Possible is a national leader in college access and success programming that is dedicated to coaching students from low-income backgrounds to-and-through college. For more than 20 years, the nonprofit organization has refined their near-peer coaching model to achieve the best outcome for its students. Beginning junior year of high school and continuing right up until college graduation, near-peer coaches advise and mentor eligible students with the goal of helping them reach their fullest potential. This rigorously tested model has helped make College Possible students three times more likely to complete a four-year college degree and 98 percent of students in the program are admitted to college.
With the new semester approaching, Cajade expressed her excitement over the hiring of the three newest coaches: Jared Martino, Jessica Levine and recent Vaughn graduate, Jenelle Samuel ’21. Each coach will support approximately 140 students within their service year. “The past year has been difficult for everyone, but especially our students,” Cajade said. “We are excited to welcome our new near-peer coaches to the Vaughn family. Catalyze is a wonderful program, and College Possible a great partner. I’m proud to be a part of an institution that pulls out all the stops to give students all the tools they need to succeed.”
Want to learn more? Check out our blog article which explains how opportunity programs, like HEOP, can help you achieve success in college and graduate with a futureproof career.
Inspiration comes from many places. For Tatiana Jaimes ’22, a mechatronic engineering major at Vaughn College, the blind children in her native country of Colombia were the driving force behind conceptualizing and designing BrailleBud, a teaching tool that encourages pre-k and first-grade children to read by learning the Braille alphabet.
Coming back to America
Although Jaimes was born in New York City, she moved to Colombia with her grandmother to attend elementary school and high school. She explained how the educational system in Colombia focuses strongly on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum. “From a young age, I learned the fundamentals of physics and engineering,” Jaimes said. “I saw how the majority of blind children in my country live in poverty and can’t afford the schools for the blind, not to mention Braille reading materials. I knew this would be one of my callings in life—to develop a device that would give visually-impaired children a chance at literacy and going on to have a fruitful life.”
As high school graduation approached, she began searching for colleges to pursue her degree. Her mother, who lives in New York, discovered Vaughn College. After exploring the degree programs at Vaughn, Jaimes knew the College would be the perfect fit for her. “Although I am bilingual, Vaughn helped guide me through the application process,” she explained. “They eliminated any stress and made it easy to apply.” At 17 years old, Jaimes enrolled in the mechatronics engineering program and the rest—as they say—is history in the making.
Finding her place at Vaughn
Excited to begin her college career, Jaimes said she made the best use of her time and resources on campus. She made friends easily, and took the advice of upperclassmen to join clubs and get involved with collaborating on research papers. She befriended engineering and technology students Alina Santander Vinokurova ’23 and August Rodriguez ’22, who were looking to work on a community-based project. “It was an exciting experience meeting Alina and August,” Jaimes said. “We share the same passion and desire to find a way to solve present day problems by implementing solutions that are not always addressed—such as helping blind children to read.”
Vaughn’s support made it happen
By the summer of 2020, Jaimes and her team conceptualized how to make BrailleBud completely mechanical, and with the help and support of Miguel Bustamante, PhD, assistant professor of engineering and technology and Dr. Hossein Rahemi, chair of Vaughn College’s engineering and technology department, the process was smooth and productive. “Professor Bustamante was instrumental in the development of our first prototype,” said Jaimes. “He suggested we make it more interactive by using the tools of mechatronic engineering, such as adding actuators and audio.” By 2021, the team completed the prototype, with the help and support of Dr. Rahemi, who arranged to have all expenses for the project paid by the College.
The mechanics behind BrailleBud
While the concept of the BrailleBud is not an original idea, it should be noted that Jaimes, Santander Vinokurova and Rodriguez found a way to design a more interactive Braille literacy tool for young children by sharpening their auditory and tactile senses. They also designed BrailleBud to be lighter and more affordable for families of the visually impaired. The tool is designed to be used on three levels: “level one” for letters of the alphabet, “level two” for the learning of small words such as “cat” and “dog,” and “level three” for more complex words, which is currently in development. Their prototype is a tablet that uses three braille cells each with six dots to represent a different letter. Jaimes and her team designed the unit with a passive infrared sensor (PIR) that detects whether the child is hovering over the correct “letter.” It is equipped with audio capabilities that has an encouraging “voice” that praises the child, letting him or her know when an answer is correct.
Using mechatronic engineering to design the prototype
The team combined all three elements of mechatronic engineering—mechanical, electrical and computer—when designing the prototype. For the mechanical aspect, they used the College’s 3D printers to create the “home” of the tablet, which houses the control system and microprocessors. The electrical part of the system uses transistors, solenoids, speakers, and other electrical parts that are used to transmit energy and power the tablet. “Dr. Rahemi was extremely helpful acquiring the components we needed,” Jaimes said. Lastly, the computer engineering aspect uses Arduino’s integrated development environment (IDE), which is part of the coding to power and communicate all the components for each level.
A team effort
Leading the team, Jaimes said she is beyond proud of their accomplishments. “We work so great together,” Jaimes said. “We each bring our level of expertise to the table making this prototype the best it can be.” Jaimes’ responsibility was to build the circuit, Santander Vinokurova worked on the audio function and actuators, while Rodriguez built the “home” and conducted all of the CAD-related work. Together, the team collaborated on the project and contributed to the research paper, “BrailleBud: Transitional Learning Tool from Pre-Literacy to Braille Literacy.” Their paper was presented virtually at the 2021 Latin American and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions (LACCEI) Conference in July and qualified them as finalists at the conference. “We owe our gratitude to Dr. Rahemi for his efforts in having our paper presented at the LACCEI,” Jaimes said humbly. “His support and the support of the Vaughn community helped us get to this point.”
Her future with NASA
Growing up in Colombia instilled many desires in Jaimes. “I realized that opportunities and those ‘a-ha’ moments come when you least expect them,” Jaimes explained. “One day, while in high school, I watched a video of a NASA engineer working on the robotic arm for the Mars rover, Perseverance. It was then that I knew I wanted to pursue a career that was space-related.” As she continues to work on the BrailleBud at Vaughn, she looks forward to living her dream of working at NASA. Last March, she was chosen for the Pathways Internship at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where she worked over the summer. Her exemplary work ethic and leadership roles at Vaughn—combined with her mechatronic engineering focus earned Jaimes a job offer at NASA after graduation. She plans on pursuing a master’s degree in Control Systems and looks forward to working at the job that awaits her at NASA.
“I’m grateful to all of my professors at Vaughn who supported and inspired me to get to where I am today. I learned that engineering is all about teamwork. I look forward to being a part of many teams in the future, working toward the better good.”