UB SAE creates new officer position dedicated to freshmen retention

UB student chapter of SAE Baja project team members.

The SAE Baja Team was in Illinois at the caterpillar testing grounds last year. From left to right are: Andy Neu, Brian Balthasar, Bill Galley, George Melero, Will Gmoser, Justin Register, Nick Stachowski, Zachary Perkins, Evan Asklar, Livio Forte and Matt Melero.

by Emily Sugarman

Published February 19, 2018

When students start college for the first time, they are encouraged to “get involved,” try new things, and join clubs in order to get the most out of their experience. 

“In the past, we’ve had general body meetings with 100 people and it just wasn’t personal enough. Sometimes potential club members are interested in cars or snowmobiles, but may not have experience building them or are shy about asking questions. They stop showing up to meetings as a result.”
Zachary Perkins, President
UB SAE

This can be especially true in engineering, where many of the student clubs and organizations participate in local, national and international competitions. The clubs want to recruit freshman, but it is hard to find meaningful ways to include younger members because they often do not have the knowledge needed to make meaningful contributions.

In order to combat this problem, UB’s student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) leadership set an intention to not only make freshman feel more welcome and excited to be a part of SAE — but to feel like they are an essential part of the club and that they have something important to contribute. 

“In the past, we’ve had general body meetings with 100 people and it just wasn’t personal enough. Sometimes potential club members are interested in cars or snowmobiles, but may not have experience building them or are shy about asking questions. They stop showing up to meetings as a result,” said Zachary Perkins, president of SAE.

Perkins and the other SAE board members decided to create a new officer position, the Freshman Retention Officer, charged specifically with developing programs and procedures to mentor the club’s newest members. These programs or lessons include things like Machine Shop and SolidWorks training, which benefit both the snowmobile and baja teams.

Additionally, Baja Design Leads of each system of the car host their own meetings for those interested in that system. Freshmen are divided into these different system teams based on their interests expressed through a questionnaire. These smaller system groups aim to help make interaction with the club more personable and create a more welcoming atmosphere for questions and involvement. The groups also challenge members to get their hands dirty and develop the new skills they desire, empower them to take initiative, and beget a spirit of productive teamwork. Leaders of these groups, who are upperclassmen, act as a source of support, and teach his or her group complex engineering terminology so that they can better understand the larger club meetings.

Every club can learn from SAE to take action to cultivate a more inclusive, welcoming environment, which in turn, can maximize the success and cohesiveness of the club.

About UB SAE

SAE trains students in hands-on engineering and design skills. SAE’s major projects include Baja SAE — constructing a competitive off road vehicle — and Clean Snowmobile SAE, which focuses on producing a competitive snowmobile modified to improve emissions, fuel economy, and noise. 

2017 UB student chapter of SAE snowmobile team members.

Members of the UB SAE clean snowmobile project team pose in the Furnas Hall parking lot. Casey Amidon is on the left sled and Nick Marchesiello is on the right sled. The rest, going from left to right, are Andy Kruger, Bryan Busch, Jeff D’Angelo, Joel Levin, Austin Keppler, Justin Register, Ethan Schonhaut, Noah White and Cody Budzinski.