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Hope College June 2014 : Page 14

Faculty Profile Now a By Tessa Judge ’14 Mentor “I thought I really knew the school when I was here as a student, but now that I’m back as a professor, I’ve realized that there’s a much bigger picture to look at,” Dr. Peckens says. “Rather than thinking about my four-year plan, I’m thinking long-term, about current students, future students who will come in, what the department can do with the program. It’s a long-distance picture.” Dr. Peckens returned this past fall after graduate studies at the University of Michigan, where she completed her Master of Science in Engineering in both electrical engineering and civil and environmental engineering, and Ph.D. in civil environmental engineering. Her vocational choice seems obvious in retrospect, but one reason that she was initially drawn to Hope as a student was that the college also offered options. “When I was trying to decide what college to go to and what to study, people told me I should be an engineer because I liked science and math,” Dr. Peckens said. “I chose Hope in the end because I liked the college’s size, and if by some chance I didn’t like engineering, there were plenty of alternatives. As soon as I got into the engineering program though, I loved it. I never had a second thought about changing majors.” Even as she stayed with engineering, Dr. Peckens made the most of Hope’s rich liberal arts curriculum, double-majoring in French. She was able to study abroad for a semester in Nantes, France, during the spring term of her junior year, but she was also able to combine her two majors together, almost by chance. In 2005, Dr. Peckens co-founded and became the vice president of Hope’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). During her time working with the organization, she helped lead two teams of students to Cameroon, West Africa, where she was able to use both her Having valued her own experience as a Hope undergraduate, Dr. Courtney Clum ’06 Peckens is back as a member of the engineering faculty and committed to mentoring new generations of students. This summer, she is conducting s an engineering major at Hope, Dr. Courtney Clum ’06 Peckens appreciated the mentoring and opportunities she received as a student. Now, just eight short years after graduating, she’s back at Hope as a member of the faculty, making a priority of helping new generations of students grow into careers of their own. A As a prospective student, Dr. Peckens appreciated that the college offered a compelling combination of individual attention and a variety of academic programs. She majored in both engineering and French, a combination she put to use when co-founding Hope’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders and helping lead the group’s first service project to Cameroon. knowledge of the French language and skills acquired as an engineering major. She and the other students designed a water system for a community of around 300 people that is still in use today. Dr. Peckens now advises current students on their EWB endeavors. Senior Isabel Morris of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the chapter’s secretary this past year and will be president next year, and she and Dr. Peckens have been working quite closely to get applications for future projects together. Both Dr. Peckens and Morris strive to keep Hope’s EWB as professional and useful as possible. “EWB is passionate about making sure that the work that’s being done isn’t harmful. The organization would never want to go into a country and build a well without leaving the right resources for it to be used later,” Morris said. “Dr. Peckens has a lot of really good professional advice. Her experience and perspective has taught her about the kind of guidance that we [EWB] need. We don’t need help knowing what we need to do; we need help thinking about what we need to do in terms of the engineering department, the college, and how we present ourselves.” 14 News News From From Hope Hope College College

Faculty Profile

Now a Mentor

Tessa Judge

As an engineering major at Hope, Dr. Courtney Clum ’06 Peckens appreciated the mentoring and opportunities she received as a student.

Now, just eight short years after graduating, she’s back at Hope as a member of the faculty, making a priority of helping new generations of students grow into careers of their own.

“I thought I really knew the school when I was here as a student, but now that I’m back as a professor, I’ve realized that there’s a much bigger picture to look at,” Dr. Peckens says. “Rather than thinking about my four-year plan, I’m thinking long- term, about current students, future students who will come in, what the department can do with the program. It’s a long-distance picture.”

Dr. Peckens returned this past fall after graduate studies at the University of Michigan, where she completed her Master of Science in Engineering in both electrical engineering and civil and environmental engineering, and Ph.D. in civil environmental engineering. Her vocational choice seems obvious in retrospect, but one reason that she was initially drawn to Hope as a student was that the college also offered options.

“When I was trying to decide what college to go to and what to study, people told me I should be an engineer because I liked science and math,” Dr. Peckens said. “I chose Hope in the end because I liked the college’s size, and if by some chance I didn’t like engineering, there were plenty of alternatives. As soon as I got into the engineering program though, I loved it. I never had a second thought about changing majors.”

Even as she stayed with engineering, Dr. Peckens made the most of Hope’s rich liberal arts curriculum, double-majoring in French. She was able to study abroad for a semester in Nantes, France, during the spring term of her junior year, but she was also able to combine her two majors together, almost by chance. In 2005, Dr. Peckens co-founded and became the vice president of Hope’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). During he r time working with the organization, she helped lead two teams of students to Cameroon, West Africa, where she was able to use both her knowledge of the French language and skills acquired as an engineering major. She and the other students designed a water system for a community of around 300 people that is still in use today.

Dr. Peckens now advises current students on their EWB endeavors. Senior Isabel Morris of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the chapter’s secretary this past year and will be president next year, and she and Dr. Peckens have been working quite closely to get applications for future projects together. Both Dr. Peckens and Morris strive to keep Hope’s EWB as professional and useful as possible.

“EWB is passionate about making sure that the work that’s being done isn’t harmful. The organization would never want to go into a country and build a well without leaving the right resources for it to be used later,” Morris said. “Dr. Peckens has a lot of really good professional advice. Her experience and perspective has taught her about the kind of guidance that we [EWB] need. We don’t need help knowing what we need to do; we need help thinking about what we need to do in terms of the engineering department, the college, and how we present ourselves.”

Dr. Peckens has returned to a department that has grown significantly since she graduated. Not least of all, engineering has a new home in the 9,000-square-foot Haworth Engineering Center, which opened in August as a wing of VanderWerf Hall.

Active in collaborative research as an undergraduate herself, Dr. Peckens is now establishing a research program of her own, working this summer with sophomore Ireana Cook of Canton, Michigan, and junior Eric Lipon of Brighton, Michigan, on wireless sensor design with monitoring and control applications in civil infrastructure.

She is also involved in the college’s new chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), advised by Hope colleague Dr. Katharine Polasek, an assistant professor of engineering who has taught at Hope since 2010. While Hope didn’t yet have an SWE chapter when she was a student, Dr. Peckens appreciated that the department provided a supportive environment as she pursued her interest in a field that nationwide continues to be maledominated (according to a 2010 report by the National Science Foundation, only 13 percent of those in engineering occupations in the United States are women).

“The small class sizes really helped me become confident and find my voice. When I was a student, there was a core group of us girls who banded together, but in some classes, I was the only girl. I got to know everybody though and felt really comfortable,” Dr. Peckens said. “Even in graduate school, sometimes I was the only female, but I didn’t notice it because I was quite confident in my education.”

Dr. Peckens received important support for her studies at Hope through the Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation Inc. of New York City, which had awarded a grant to the college that provided full scholarships for two years and summer research experiences for four women majoring in the physical sciences. The program’s goal was to encourage women interested in science disciplines in which they are traditionally underrepresented nationwide.

Remembering what it’s like to be a student herself, Dr. Peckens serves as an experienced and relatable source of guidance for students. Morris, for example, likewise blends strong interests in engineering and the humanities, dual-majoring in the Classics. Preparing to spend part of her summer participating in a six-week excavation in Italy, Morris looks forward to utilizing her passion for both engineering and ancient civilizations. Just as Dr. Peckens was able to use her French major in conjunction with her engineering major, Morris intertwines her majors together quite elegantly, embracing and living the definition of a holistic education.

“When I talk to my engineering friends about what I want to do in the future, they’ve all taken Cultural Heritage, so they have the context to understand what I’m talking about . I think having a liberal arts education gives you all of the skills that you need to be a more useful, relatable, and effective engineer,” Morris says. “As an engineer, no matter what you do, people are going to be interacting with you by means of what you create. It’s important to be well-rounded in order to have a better impact.”

While Dr. Peckens has already made a clear impact on her students, she also has be en a supreme addition to the faculty and staff of the department of engineering. Her status as former student creates a slightly different dynamic between her and her former professors-turn-edcolleagues, but it’s a good one. For example, her former research mentor, Dr. Roger Veldman ’89, is thrilled by her return to the department. Not only does her return to Hope speak to the college’s reputation, it speaks to her hard work and success as a student.

“I think it’s exciting when someone goes through the program, goes out on her own, does really well, and chooses to come back. She brings a lot of energy, good ideas, and commitment to the department, and it’s fantastic having her back on the faculty,” said Dr. Veldman, who is chairperson of the department as well as a professor of engineering.

As professor, mentor, advisor, and colleague, Dr. Peckens fulfills her many duties with an ever-developing sense of curiosity, desire to learn, and passion for helping others succeed. She plays an important role as an addition to Hope’s engineering department and doesn’t shy away from her responsibilities.

“It’s no surprise to me that she’s ended up doing as well as she has based on what I saw in her as a student. From the beginning, Dr. Peckens has proven to be a great combination of a student who has the drive to succeed coupled with the place to use that drive,” Dr. Veldman said. “It’s a very powerful combination.”

While Dr. Courtney Clum ’06 Peckens has already made a clear impact on her students, she also has been a supreme addition to the faculty and staff of the department of engineering. Her status as former student creates a slightly different dynamic between her and her former professors-turned-colleagues, but it’s a good one.

Read the full article at http://digital.ipcprintservices.com/article/Faculty+Profile/1730281/212731/article.html.

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