From CEER to SAC: Career Development in the School of Engineering vs. CLAS

Isabella Ledet, Staff Writer

Even though he turned out to be evil, Syndrome from “The Incredibles” had an interesting thought: “You always, always say ‘be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to.”

While it may be easy to identify one’s passions, it is not always simple to figure out which degree or career path to pursue. 

When I first set foot on the grounds of Villanova, I was an engineer. The “College of Engineering” sticker sat freshly applied on the lid of my laptop, and I was placed into a bunch of classes with codes like “ENG” or “CHM” in front of their names. I had no idea what the college experience was, and I had no idea what pursuing a degree in engineering looked like.

On a Monday morning about once a month, I walked to a room (formerly known as CEER 001;  presently known as a pile of dirt) for a class called Career Compass First Year A. I thought, “Great, a class for freshman engineering students like myself where I can familiarize myself with the experiences that I am going to have in the school of Engineering and get some help deciding on my career.”


CEER 001 (rest in peace) was a giant, permanently lecture-style room. It had a stage up front and tight rows of the strangest chairs to ever exist pointing to the front of the room. But the thing that struck me most was that the class was not, in fact, about careers. It was not about us at all. Rather, the main thing that this class was teaching us was how the professor himself was going to have such a profound impact on all of our lives.

The class was mostly made up of online modules, video lectures and quizzes, but occasionally would consist of an in-person lecture or maybe (if anyone was feeling particularly fun) an in-class activity. But overall, the class gave me no insight about Villanova Engineering and barely anything about future careers in the engineering field, especially unconventional engineering careers.

I left the School of Engineering after the spring semester and am now in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

My awakening came when I attended my first session of Math and Stat Communities, the CLAS version of a major’s career development class. It was held in a small classroom in Vasey Hall, and all of the chairs had little wheels on them so we could move them into a circular formation and actually see everyone’s faces, not just the professor’s. After the professor covered the short syllabus, he pulled out a tray of brownies that he cooked for us at home and handed them out to everyone. He then proceeded to play his guitar and sing us a welcome song as we ate.

It was nothing short of amazing and exceeded all of my expectations.

I am not writing this only to praise him for the delicious brownies or the beautiful melody. The class itself is structured much differently from the “comparable” career development course back over in Engineering. This class is scheduled to have guest lecturers, student panels and alumni panels all throughout the semester, each sharing about different topics within the world of Mathematics and Statistics, or simply to answer our questions. One of our main objectives in the course is to plan out our academic path as we continue through our time at Villanova.

These are all things that are actually helpful as I  figure out what I want to do with my life and learn to pursue it at this wonderful institution.

I realized that the best path for me to reach my end goal would not be slogging through the rigid curriculum of Civil Engineering. I never truly understood the “value of the Liberal Arts education,” as everyone claims, until I realized that CLAS gives students the freedom to be themselves: an entire person with many interests, talents and passions that do not always perfectly fit under a single umbrella.

I do not mean to diminish the School of Engineering’s renown or the success of its graduates. I simply have noticed that it is surprisingly traditional for an engineering school, which is something that I was not expecting from such a unique institution as Villanova. While I understand that many students’ choices are limited due to strict accreditation requirements, I believe that the School of Engineering can still make a student feel important by incorporating some sort of program, project or discussion into the curriculum where students are able to make their own decisions about their education and learn about their path within the school. I feel that these changes would help foster the belief in the value of interdisciplinary study throughout all of Villanova, not just some of its colleges. I am glad that CLAS values this holistic approach and is a place where the entire self may be recognized, explored and fostered.

And the brownies were also really good.