College of Engineering News Room

Engineering Student Council Builds Professional Skills

by Russell Nay

The Engineering Student Council (E-Council) within the College of Engineering is the recent recipient of the National Association of Engineering Student Councils (NAESC) Best Professional Development award. That’s an outstanding achievement for any E-Council, but USF’s organization is barely more than five years old and only an NAESC member since 2019.

“When I came to USF in 2014, I realized that we needed a vibrant E-Council,” said Robert Bishop, Dean of the College of Engineering. “I saw fragmented student group funding efforts that I knew could be improved through the establishment of an E-Council. More importantly, I knew that the College would benefit from an engaged student leadership council to serve as a conduit between the students and the Dean’s Office.”

NAESC 2021 Southeast Conference

Students thorughout the Southeast came to USF's Tampa campus for the 2021 National Association of Engineering Student Councils regional conference.

E-Council is also a great mechanism to build highly sought-after skills in the workplace.

“I've been able to learn how to work and lead a diverse group of people,” said Curtis Gaskins, NAESC’s Liaison Chair and industrial engineering student. “This is a skill that will transfer to the industry because multiple, different perspectives are valued professionally. I will know how to listen and understand engineering perspectives from different departments, cultures, and backgrounds.”

At a base level, E-Council is a funding council, an extension of student government which allocates funds to engineering clubs on campus. E-Council makes sure that student government gives funds for more extensive project-heavy clubs that engineering students are typically involved in such as clubs that build rockets or robotics.

“We just make sure that they get as much money as possible,” said Demi Padilla, E-Council Chair and undergraduate electrical engineering student. “Beyond our finance role, we are moving toward getting engineering organizations to be more involved with the College of Engineering by hosting events and acting as a liaison for the Office of the Dean.”

Prior to the establishment of the E-Council, engineering clubs received approximately 40% of the funds requested from student government. Through the E-Council model, the percentage is nearly 100%. The group has allocated more than one million dollars to engineering student organizations through USF Student Government.

“As chair, it’s my job to make sure that we achieve our goals and decide on which path to take to reach said goals," Padilla said. "I also regularly meet with Dean Bishop and the faculty to get their input and translate it to the E-Council while making sure all communication with Student Government goes well."

E-Council benefits other organizations with two approaches. A financial approach helps organizations attain money from student government by advising and guiding them through the budget process. The philanthropic approach helps students connect to engineering organizations and provide free food and resources.

“The students learn an important suite of management skills such as communication, leadership, time management, and financial and project management that will be valuable to them in their first professional job or if they continue to graduate school,” Bishop said.

"Since we are a small organization we tend to take ‘flat organizational structure’, so everyone has their specialization, like marketing, finance or outreach, and we discuss solutions to problems based on that," Demi said. "Before getting involved in E-Council, I was quite shy about contributing my ideas. E-Council gave me the space to raise my confidence and truly make an impact in my engineering community."

In the fall, E-Council, hosted the Southeast NAESC 2021 Regional Conference on campus. 

“USF engineering has wanted to bring a Southeast Regional Conference since we joined NAESC in 2019,” Gaskins said.

The 2021 NAESC Southeast Regional Conference has been a milestone for the E-Council since joining NAESC.

“This conference is important to the Southeast region of NAESC because it allows us to connect with each other on how to improve our respective councils, grow as engineering leaders through workshops, and meet local engineering companies,” Gaskins said. “We discussed topics such as professional development, Engineering Week, and diversity and inclusion throughout the entirety of this conference.”

The conference featured lectures from Bethune Cookman’s environmental science program and USF's Ruthmae Sears about J.E.D.I - Justice, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. Dean Bishop also presented his recent satellite research.

“The NAESC Regional Conference went very well," Padilla said. "Curtis and the NAESC volunteers really did an amazing job planning and executing their goals. I liked discussing with the other engineering leaders on how they work and comparing notes.”

“The E-Council is all made up of a lot of hard workers and kind people, and I am truly grateful to have that," she said.