Dean Emily Allen's Message - August 2020

Emily Alen, Dean College of ECST

Dr. Emily Allen, Dean, College of ECST

Dear ECST Alumni and Friends-

I’m writing to you from my home office in Altadena, where my officemates (two cats) and I manage the College and interact with our faculty, staff and students over Zoom. What a strange time we all are living through! There is the excitement of starting a new academic year, tempered by the pandemic and our country’s social unrest. And while many of us long for a return to normalcy, and a time when we can see each other in person and interact without a screen between us, we also know that there will be no return to the “old” normal. We’ve learned so much since last March, and here at Cal State LA we try to find the silver linings. I know that we will bring to our new normal many improved practices for both our operations and our teaching and learning mission. I think we’ll also return with a deeper appreciation for each other.

We shut down March 16 and pivoted to remote instruction in only a few days, converting 400 class sections to online or asynchronous format in record time. Although students had increased opportunity to withdraw without penalty, or to change to CR/NC grading, most did not, and most finished up their semester successfully. We awarded almost 450 BS degrees and 120 MS degrees in Spring 2020.

To sharpen our focus on student success during the pandemic, we conducted a survey in the spring and learned about the challenges some of our students faced, including: lack of quiet space to study, poor Internet connections, the need to support their families, and family members or students contracting Covid-19. Many expressed longing for the community of their fellow students, the opportunity to work together and learn in person, and to have face-to-face connections with their faculty. Our students are resilient and resourceful, so most of the continuing students have returned for the Fall semester.

Over the summer there was considerable preparation for the upcoming academic year. Many of our faculty spent the summer earning a certificate in “alternative instruction” and now are prepared for another semester of remote instruction using enhanced online tools and techniques that work best for our students. As I write this, we have faculty and staff on campus busy assembling remote lab instruction kits to distribute and videotaping laboratory techniques for students watching at home. The University distributed hundreds of laptops and hotspots to students and employees who needed them to work effectively at home.

During July and August, we welcomed some 400 freshmen and 300 new transfer students into our College via the summer’s Virtual Orientations. Over 250 new freshmen attended our summer bridge program, Summer Transition to ECST Programs (STEP), which was offered as a four-week remote math bootcamp, with lectures, peer assistance, and an online math program to help our students advance into the next level of math. Over 150 STEP participants successfully placed into Calculus I for the Fall semester.

We also converted our summer camp for high school women, LAunchPad, into a two-week virtual program with faculty and industry speakers, many of them our own alumni!  Thank you to all our speakers! The 62 student participants responded with enthusiasm to all that they learned. Said one participant, “The biggest lesson I learned is that I shouldn't be afraid to go into Engineering just because I am a woman.”

I’d also like to give a very big shout-out to the many dedicated alumni and current students of our Fire Protection Administration and Technology program (FPAT). Many of them are serving on the frontlines fighting the California wildfires, running fire crews for LA City, LA County, US Forest Service and CALFIRE, and working in very difficult conditions for long stretches to protect lives and property.

The Black Lives Matter events of the spring and summer that highlighted injustice against Black citizens of our country also impacted our College community. We’ve started conversations about race and privilege in the College to uncover places where unexamined bias or other systems may be reducing opportunities for our Black students.  We also asked our Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to contribute to our strategic re-planning effort, which was put on pause in the spring. But now more than ever, ECST is committed to our values and our vision, to serve our students by investing in our faculty and staff alongside our students.

We’ve already had a big year: since January ECST faculty have been awarded almost $5M in research grants from a variety of federal, state, local, and private sources. In addition, our alumni, friends and corporate and foundation partners donated over $2M to ECST in the last fiscal year. These grants and gifts enable our faculty to innovate and include students in research activities, support faculty, staff, and students involved in our Acceleration Initiatives, provide much needed Capstone design projects, and support scholarships. Most importantly, they let us know that you’ve got our backs and appreciate what we do!

One thing I’ve learned during the pandemic about the Cal State LA community is that most people are compassionate and will do everything they can to help our students and each other. ECST is a great place to study and work, even if it’s from home!

Please stay safe and healthy everyone! I look forward to when I can see you all again. Meantime, we offer several ways for you to stay engaged in the college through the opportunities below.

Connect with Fellow ECST Alums
Want to connect with fellow ECST alums? Join Maida Lopez ’03 and Ricson Chude ’08, chairs of the ECST Alumni Network, for a virtual social hour on Thursday, September 21, 2020, at 6:00 pm, with special guest, Dean Emily Allen. Hear ECST updates, meet other alumni, and learn about the ECST Alumni Network and its mission to support you! For more information on the network, to register for the upcoming social, and to sign up for our mailing list, please visit the ECST Alumni Network website.

Join the ECST Speakers Bureau
Looking for a way to give back to students? How about joining our Speakers Bureau? This is a new ECST initiative, which will help us provide a repository of potential speakers for the College. We’ll be able to share your interest in speaking with the appropriate departments, student organizations, and faculty. We’ll ask you to fill out an online form with the background information, and then we’ll get in touch when the right opportunity arises. This might be a presentation by Zoom, or we’ll wait until we’re back on campus. Thanks for signing up! Click to sign up for the ECST Speakers Bureau.

Become a Mentor
Do you wish you had a mentor when you were in engineering school? Join the Cal State LA Alumni Mentoring Program to network with fellow ECST alumni and help current students with their career questions. Click for more information on being a mentor and to sign up.