Brown-Forman Engineering Academy enters third year, inspires students

July 13, 2018

Logo for the Brown-Forman Engineering Academy

For the past two years, the Brown-Forman Engineering Academy (BFEA) has afforded prospective students the opportunity to learn more about engineering studies, helping them to transition from high school to college. A two-week program, students stay in the Engineering Living Learning Community, where over the course of their stay, they are assisted with academic prep, peer support, faculty relationship building, and student success programming.

The program was realized under the leadership of Interim Dean Gail DePuy, and developed by Heidi Neal, Director of Student Success and a panel of faculty, staff, and students. Heather Mann, Assistant Director of Student Success, organizes and coordinates the event, working closely with students throughout the process. Mann understands that for many making the transition into college is difficult.

“Studies show that students need more examples of what real-engineering is like for when engineering gets hard,” said Mann. “A lot of students need that end goal. They love it. I’ve truly only heard good things, and seen it enacted. The students stay really close to each other. They learn a lot from each other.”

Sophomore Payton Atwood, an Industrial Engineering major, took part in the program in 2017. As a first generation student that lives over two hours away, Atwood was apprehensive coming into college. For her, the BFEA offered not only an opportunity to learn about the rigors of academia, but Louisville as a whole. Through the academy, she was not only able to learn skills pertinent to her studies, but to develop a community that have continued to help support her in the interim.

“Nearly a year later, Heather Mann, Nick Wright, and the peer mentors are always open and willing to help with anything,” said Atwood. “First semester, all of my study groups were made up of my BFEA peers. My current roommates are girls I met at BFEA. I wholeheartedly believe BFEA was a direct contribution to my success in Speed School thus far and I absolutely recommend the experience to all incoming freshmen.”

In the first two years of the program, the BFEA alumni have maintained at or above the average cohort GPA and retention rates.

Industrial Engineering junior Laura Acevedo has developed into a better student, had a comparable experience in community building, attributable largely in part to the BFEA. For Acevedo, never especially engaged or inspired during high school, she has navigated the crucible of her freshman and sophomore careers and come out stronger for it.

“My whole college experience would’ve been completely different without this camp,” said Acevedo. “I find my transition into Speed School pretty smooth due to the things I learned in this camp and the people I met. I am so grateful to have been a part of BFEA!”

Like Acevedo, Kavonte Jones is an ambitious student. A junior majoring in Chemical Engineering, Jones took opportunities to enroll in advanced placement (AP) courses in high school whenever possible, taking time to participate in extracurricular activities like the academic team and community programs like the Hardin County Teen Court Program. While not shy, Jones realized that he lacked experience critical to his educational objectives, which led him to the BFEA.

While he believes he had a strong support system prior to attending the Speed School, it was through the academy that Jones fostered his confidence with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Despite his outside accomplishments in high school, Jones struggled with math in particular, and has since developed strategies that help him remain successful.

“It's because of BFEA that I am succeeding so much now,” said Jones. “I had a great time with the program and I am grateful for the confidence, pride, and success it has given me.”

The program runs July 22 through August 2 this year and concludes with a closing program featuring group presentations given by the students  to invited guests.