Building a Community of Engineers Through Alumni Involvement

Fifth-year mechanical engineering student and recent alum join forces to strengthen student/alumni relations

Mark Lee, ’06, felt nostalgic during his first Engineers Week since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.  It felt different being on campus for the event as an alumnus instead of a student, but he likened it to “riding a bike,” and found it easy to fall back into a comfortable routine.  Lee, a past Engineering Student Council (ESC) president, attended this year’s E-Week as a participant, an alumnus, and a recruiter at the EngiTECH Career Fair. 

Daniel Low, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, had a more demanding role at E-Week 2007.  Low, the current ESC president, and his team began preparation for E-Week almost six months prior to the events.  The many weeks and hours of planning were rewarded with well-attended events and a successful career fair.

“Participation was up, the pancakes served at the Dean’s breakfast were great, and it was good to see the faculty, students, staff and alumni all come together to celebrate engineering,” Low said.

Low said that a key component of his positive E-Week experiences, as well as serving this year as ESC president, is directly related to Lee’s continual support and encouragement as a past ESC president, an alumnus, and a friend.  Low describes Lee as a big brother figure, someone who is always around to give advice and offer help.  “Mark gave me the confidence to take on the ESC presidency this year,” he explained.  “I’m grateful for his support, as well as the contributions of many other alumni.”

While the Samueli School places significant emphasis on students and fostering their academic achievements, alumni also play an important role in student development.  In addition to recruiting for their employers, alumni also have the opportunity to offer a unique perspective on how to improve the School and help guide current students through their academics, professional career search, and life in general.

Lee chose to become involved with ESC as a sophomore.  Thinking about life in engineering after graduation, he wanted to immerse himself in activities that would assist in his transition from student to engineering professional.  In his first year with the Council, he became vice chair of corporate affairs, laying the foundation for his future involvement with the group as a student, and now alum. 

“I remember our first staff retreat after I became president,” Lee said.  “We took a camping trip, which ended up being 25 percent planning, and 75 percent camping, but it really set the tone for the year.  ESC isn’t just a form of student government, it’s about friends helping friends.”

Low also began his association with ESC as a sophomore.  Wanting to be more engaged on campus, he thought ESC would be a good opportunity to get involved specifically with the engineering school.  A veteran of student council in high school, Low responded to the call to serve as chair of the community outreach committee, and became a member of Lee’s executive cabinet.

Lee and Low both look forward to continued connections with the Samueli School as alumni.  Lee plans to continue to mentor and support ESC members, and Low’s ESC ties inspire his aspiration to follow Lee’s example in mentoring future engineering students after graduation. 

“I think it’s important to give back to your school, because college sets your path in life,” said Low.  “I know how hard it is to be a student, and want to share my experiences and wisdom to help make college life easier for future engineering undergraduates.”

Lee supports the engineering school and ESC as part of what he considers an important effort to build and continue to develop an engineering community at UC Irvine.  Seeing students grow from people who wanted to simply be involved with the School into people who are leaders is what has been the most rewarding part of returning to campus an alumnus. 

“My main goal while in ESC was to develop a strong engineering student community by creating an environment that encouraged students to become leaders, and develop a sense of stewardship for their school,” said Lee.  “I hope that my participation will encourage both the future graduates of the school and current alumni to remain active in our school community.”

From career advice, to professor recommendations, to imparting wisdom about balancing classes, friends, and activities, alumni like Lee are an important component in promoting a community of engineers at UC Irvine and perpetuating a rewarding cycle of alumni involvement.