Lakshmi Raju, the director of ECE's Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being

The Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being (SEWB) operates as a support catalyst, empowering students on their path to academic, personal, and professional success. SEWB, established in October 2022, has already taken measurable steps to significantly increase ECE’s student support services.

Below, SEWB director Lakshmi Raju, who received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from the School, shares insights on the office's inception, its strategies and achievements, and offers advice to students on maximizing their time in ECE.

How did the Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being come into being and what new services or initiatives have already been introduced?

Higher education has been changing for a while now, and we've all come to understand that the student experience is more than just taking classes. The idea of the SEWB office started there; realizing that students need more support. We saw a gap and decided to fill it.

ECE has taken this to heart, probably more than most places thanks to good leadership. ECE’s Chair, Arijit Raychowdhury, made it a priority for the School to have a faculty member in charge of student support. That's what my role has been since October of 2022.

My goal is simple: I want to make life a bit easier for students. The ECE majors are tough, college itself is a challenge, and life, in general, can be very difficult. Some difficulties are just part of the process, but others don't have to be, and that's what we're targeting here.

Since establishing the SEWB office we've been rolling out some cool stuff. For instance, we've set up a Conference and Career Development Fund that's already supported over 20 students. The idea behind it is to help students, especially those without research funding like undergraduates, expand their networks beyond Georgia Tech.

We've also created a Research Hub online where students can discover research opportunities in ECE and beyond.

Plus, there's the Wellness Series we started last spring in partnership with the Wellness Empowerment Center. It's all about giving students the skills they need to grow personally and professionally, and it ends with some fun stress-relief events at the close of each semester.

The ECE majors are tough, college itself is a challenge, and life, in general, can be very difficult. Some difficulties are just part of the process, but others don't have to be, and that's what we're targeting here.

ECE Student Resource Hub

Whether in need of academic assistance, financial support, well-being resources, career guidance, or technical tools, ECE is here for students.

My role is to be a go-to person for students in need, whether it's related to academics, careers, or personal stuff. If there's a gap in resources within ECE or the Institute, I aim to bridge it.

How can students effectively utilize the resources and support provided by your office?

The key message we aim to convey is the typical adage: we're here to open the door, but it's up to you to step through. SEWB is committed to supporting students. If you're balancing coursework and extracurricular activities and need guidance, don't hesitate to drop by during our ECE Peer Advising hours. You'll have the opportunity to engage with fellow undergraduates who can provide real-time mentoring. If you ever find yourself unsure about the support and opportunities available, our website contains all the necessary information.

Students don't have to navigate everything alone. We're here, and we're easily accessible. We understand that everyone’s time is valuable, and that students have a lot going on. They shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch.

In what ways has the SEWB office collaborated with other campus departments or organizations to create a holistic approach to student support?

SEWB doesn't work in isolation. We've teamed up with other parts of campus to provide a complete support package. One success story is our partnership with the Wellness Empowerment Center. Together, we've created wellness workshops covering topics like stress management to time management.

We're also in close contact with ECE student organizations and the ECE Student Advisory Board to stay in the loop about what students need. Our collaboration with Women in Engineering (WIE) has been instrumental in boosting the Conference and Career Development Fund.

When it comes to mental health, we've worked hand in hand with the Center for Mental Health Care and Resources. Additionally, we've worked with ECE development team to bolster resources for student support.

Plus, we've linked up with the Center for Teaching and Learning to establish STEER (Supporting Teaching ExpERience) Fellowships. This program offers a unique opportunity for Ph.D. students to nurture their teaching skills while enhancing their career prospects in academia. Fellows earn a Tech to Teaching Certificate and even get to be the instructor for an ECE course, potentially shaping the future of education in our field.

Raju at ECE Rush talking to student

Raju talking with a student at ECE Rush, an event for students to learn about the many student organizations and resources offered in the School.

ECE students receiving swag and essentials at pre finals event.

The Fall 2023 semester pre-finals drop-in event organized by SEWB. Students built a care package with essentials to prepare for finals and special ECE swag.

How does the SEWB office address challenges faced by diverse student populations to ensure inclusivity and equal access to support services?

The SEWB office's very inception is grounded in the commitment to support every student. We’re committed to helping students from all backgrounds, whether they’re international student, first-gen students, or students with specific needs. Leveraging our diversity and substantial size, we've got strategies in place to ensure everyone gets the support they need.

For starters, I co-teach ECE 1100, which is super helpful for first-year students, no matter what path they took to get here. We also organize events to help students build networks within the ECE community.

If students need extra support, SEWB can help connect them to resources like the Office of Minority Educational Development (OMED) and Georgia Tech Disability Services (ODS).

As the director, what advice would you give to incoming students on how to make the most of their college experience in terms of engagement and well-being, and how can they proactively engage with your office from the beginning of their academic journey?

I would encourage students to take a moment to explore our website and see what SEWB has to offer. Get familiar with the resources available to you. And don't wait around — be proactive about seeking help when you need it.

Also always remember, you're not in this alone. The bigger your network, the smoother your journey will be. So, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.

I've been a student here too, both undergrad and grad, so I get it – ECE is no walk in the park, but it's also not an insurmountable mountain. We've got resources, and there are more across campus. So, reach out, ask for help, and let's make your college experience a bit less challenging and a lot more rewarding.

Related Content

Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being

Supporting both undergraduate and graduate students in their goals, SEWB promote habits of academic excellence, essential life skills, and mental health.

New Travel Fund Takes ECE Students Beyond Campus to Learn and Network

ECE's Conference and Career Development Support Fund helps students explore professional experiences that complement their studies.

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