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a group of students in hard hats tour an indoor construction site

Students in the Summer TRACK career development class tour a SUNDT Construction site to learn about careers.

Summer TRACK Keeps Students Going After First Year

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Summer TRACK Keeps Students Going After First Year

Sept. 30, 2022
Industry partners show rewarding careers are within reach.

Sophomore Giovanni Walls had a difficult first year at the University of Arizona. He contracted COVID-19 and took a medical exemption for the spring semester, earning no credits for the term. That left him with a lot of catching up to do in summer 2022, so he was unsure about continuing in engineering.

Giovanni Walls head shot
Giovanni Walls

Walls not only earned 11 credits and caught up with the help of the Summer TRACK program, he also locked in an engineering major.

These days Walls is enthusiastic about earning a BS in engineering management in the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering. And he is serving as a peer mentor for the College of Engineering’s ENGAGED program, a suite of services that includes Summer TRACK.

“It’s an amazing program,” he said. “It showed me there are people in the College of Engineering who are willing to support you and your career and your education.”

To ensure students are set up for success going into their second year, Summer TRACK offers physics and Calculus 2 as well as a career development class. Students learn about professional competencies, leadership and the roles of engineers.

They begin to connect their coursework to careers. In fact, guest speakers in the career development class, many of whom were alums, inspired Walls’ choice of major.

“It gave a fresh look at the career aspect instead of the academics. The academics tire you out a lot,” he said.

Role Reversal for Young Alums

Nine companies partnered with the college in 2022 through Summer TRACK. Representatives visited classrooms and led tours of job sites.

“That experiential piece is the backbone of the program,” said Noel Hennessey, director of ENGAGED, or ENGineering Access, Greater Equity, and Diversity. New alums are especially relatable, she added, because they help students see themselves in fulfilling jobs within a few short years.

Drew Jenkins, a 2020 civil engineering graduate and field engineer for Sundt Construction’s Building Group in Tucson, says he benefited greatly from professional guidance during his time in college. He has been involved with the class since Summer TRACK started two years ago and seen students get excited when they visit job sites, glimpse the inner workings of buildings, and begin to understand the processes.

“It’s exciting to come from a design mindset and go into the builder’s world,” said Jenkins.

A Built-in Community

Like the Catapult First-Year Experience, which has provided strong retention outcomes for six years and is the longest-running ENGAGED service, Summer TRACK uses a cohort model where students have a set group of peers.

“Evidence indicates students who take classes together develop a sense of belonging and have a built-in study community, which leads to better academic outcomes,” said Hennessey.

Building inclusion is an important Summer TRACK goal because when students feel at home in the college, she said, they realize they have access to additional opportunities and could become leaders.

“A lot of our students go into undergraduate research after that summer, or club leadership. They have that sense of ownership in our college.”