Spotlight Iowa City: Engineering recruitment director keeps students at UI

BY MORGAN OLSEN | MARCH 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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Jane Dorman told prospective students at a Hawkeye Visit Day last week that she doesn’t like to think of University of Iowa engineering students as “engi-nerds.”

“This major has a bad reputation of being very competitive and sometimes even lonely,” she told the group of students and their parents. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Dorman — whose official position at the UI is director of admissions and first-year experience for the College of Engineering — paced in front of 30 potential students and parents, constantly smiling.

Her job description spans into hosting Explore engineering@Iowa programs, which provide information to future students, supervising a team of student ambassadors who represent each area of engineering, and helping high-school students learn about the college. She also oversees the Engineering Connection mentoring program, started the Men in Engineering learning community in Burge, and teaches a college-transition class for first-year engineering students.

Essentially, she helps students survive college.

“Almost everyone in engineering has considered leaving the program at some point or another,” said Dorman, who has grown her dark hair out recently for Locks of Love.

Alec Scranton, the associate dean for academic programs for the college, said Dorman is an asset, and he estimated that 93 percent of freshmen who enter the engineering school will continue on to their sophomore years at the UI. The university overall has a 83 percent freshman-retention rate.

Dorman’s phone continually rings, e-mails pour into her in box relentlessly, and her schedule is stocked with appointments. Her job description doesn’t seem to know limits.

“I look less organized than I feel I am,” the 49-year-old Wisconsin native said, eyeing her desk piled high with papers and binders.

Despite her busy schedule, the door to her office remains open to students who stop by with questions or just to say hello.

“I’ll go to her office to talk about academics or scholarships, but at the end of the day, it always boils down to a normal conversation,” said UI sophomore engineering student Kevin Lindenberg.

Katie Coates, a 2003 engineering graduate, said she went to Dorman when she had doubts.

“She helped me stay in the program; she was a mentor to me in really tough times,” said Coates, who is now a senior consultant at Rockwell-Collins. “She’s like the Glue of the College of Engineering.”

Students aren’t the only ones who depend on her. With three kids, Katrina, 23, Patrick, 19, and Ryan, 14, Dorman keeps busy outside the office, too.

Patrick, a freshman at Wartburg this year, often calls his mother when he needs help with the college grind.

“My mom helped me even before I got to college,” Patrick said. “She helped me plan out my schedule and she’s there whenever I have questions.”

But time with their mother isn’t all about school. Both Patrick and Katrina said their favorite family time is “movie and milkshake” nights at home.

“My mom is able to do a lot naturally, and she knows she’s good at it,” Katrina said. “She’s an inspiration to me in every way.”

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