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American Society for Engineering EducationNOVEMBER 2006Volume 16 | Number 3 PRISM HOMETABLE OF CONTENTSBACK ISSUES
Fields of Fuel - By Bethany Halford
Higher Ambitions - By Alvin P. Sanoff
The Burden of Plagiarism - By Thomas K. Grose

REFRACTIONS: Identifying Ourselves - By Henry Petroski
LAST WORD: Gender Bias in Academe - By Alice Merner Agogino

Piecing It All Together: The Learning Factory provides engineering students with a more hands-on learning experience. By Lynne Shallcross
Book Review: The Dance of Molecules: How Nanotechnology Is Changing Our Lives - Reviewed By Robin Tatu
YEAR OF DIALOGUE: A Conversation With a Center- By Karl A. Smith
On Campus: Winning Combination - By Lynne Shallcross

On Campus: Winning Combination - Just a bunch of jocks? Nope. - By Lynne ShallcrossChris Gianelli, left, and Robert Jones. PHOTOS BY BROCK SCOTT/SCOTTPHOTO.NET  


Chris Gianelli, left, and Robert Jones work on robots for a microelectronics course. PHOTOS BY BROCK SCOTT/SCOTTPHOTO.NETTake a peek inside University of San Diego student Robert Jones’ backpack and you’ll probably find two types of books. One with some notes on thermodynamics and differential equations—and one with X’s and O’s. Both require an incredible amount of Jones’ time and pairing the two makes Jones a fairly unique student.

From the textbook to the playbook, Jones does it all. Jones is not only a safety for USD’s Division I-AA football team, he’s also an engineering major. As if that load doesn’t sound tough enough for one person, seven of Jones’ teammates are doing the same thing.

These scholar-athletes have a high bar to meet on both ends. San Diego’s engineering program, a nine-semester program in which students graduate with a B.S. and a B.A., tied for 29th in a recent U.S. News & World Report ranking of engineering programs whose highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s. And this fall’s USD Toreros football team was ranked No. 1 in the Sports Network’s I-AA Mid-Major Top 10 Poll.

It’s quite a demanding schedule, Jones will be the first to admit that. His teammate Chris Gianelli, a defensive tackle and a junior in electrical engineering, agrees. “I don’t see that it has a lot of complications to it, I just don’t have a lot of free time,” he says. Both Jones and Gianelli say pairing football and engineering is not all that odd.

“The two complement each other. You really need to stay focused to accomplish anything of substance in either field,” Gianelli says.

Jones, a senior in electrical engineering, says he takes some of what he learns in the classroom and puts it to work on the field. “I think with the way I approach the mental part of the game, I approach it just the same way as I would approach any kind of engineering topic.” Jones says he catches on faster to the other teams’ plays and patterns because he’s accustomed to using his memory and recognizing patterns in engineering.

An ordinary fall day in the life of these two starts early and ends late. It’s filled with practice and class, and what precious downtime they have goes to studying, Jones and Gianelli say. Matt Craig, a former USD engineering student and football player, remembers those busy days. “It’s really what I needed because it didn’t give me any free time, so I had to be very focused on the task at hand,” says Craig, who graduated in 2003 and is now a senior industrial engineer at Wal-Mart.

The common stereotype of a football player just getting by academically isn’t the reality at USD, as evidenced by Gianelli’s 3.5 GPA and Jones’ 2.8. “I’ve observed over the years that for the engineering-major athletes, it takes a special type of person to combine both pursuits,” says Kathleen Kramer, electrical engineering professor and director of USD Engineering Programs. “They’re dedicated and disciplined and more mature than your typical student.”

As he approaches graduation, Jones says he’s hoping the football/engineering combination, and all the hard work, perseverance and time management skills it has required, will make his résumé stand out to prospective employers. And although Jones is planning a career in radio frequency engineering, the Compton, Calif., native says he’d eventually like to return to the field and the classroom again. “I would like to be a high school coach and just be an example for the kids, especially where I come from, to let them know that you can be a success in school and on the football field.”

Lynne Shallcross is associate editor of Prism.




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American Society for Engineering Education