The ***** for Engineers Classes

As much as I loved engineering and the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering School at the University of Oklahoma, there came a couple of times when we had to take some elective and required courses outside of our secure confines. For the most part, these were unpleasant experiences for me. I soon found out that these other colleges viewed us engineers as second-class citizens. Toys to be played with.

My infamous advisor who saved me from fate of a roustabout I discussed in this post, accepted me as a female in a strange university engineering environment. His counsel and guidance in helping me to decide my degree direction was invaluable to me. As I’ve said in previous posts, I didn’t know a lot about engineering as a career, much less for selecting elective classes. I don’t remember if he suggested taking “History of Science”, but I do recall it was an elective I almost failed.

That professor gave lecture after lecture culminating with essay exams. Repeatedly, my exams came back with big fat D’s. I was a strong A-B student and I was horrified to think I may get a D in this elective. I scheduled a meeting with this professor and met with his non-helpful attitude. I told him I made A’s and B’s in engineering and couldn’t figure out how to improve in his class. He made a remark that he doubted I made grades that good. Shocked, then mad, I had no response. The jerk had just called me a liar. I left unsure of my future in that class. I ended up with a C.

We were also required to take two semesters of Engineering Physics. Taught by the Physics department. Oh boy. The final exam for each of these two classes became known on campus as second to the accounting final. Each exam was full of multiple choice questions. That was promising. Then our German professor with his very thick accent explained that we were given one point for each correct answer, zero points for no answer and minus a quarter of a point for selecting an incorrect answer.

Stunned, I quickly figured out it would be possible to get a negative grade. Not a B minus or C minus, minus ninety points. I could only hope he graded on a curve and that my other classmates were clueless as well.

I never took high school physics. Again, one of those typically boys’ only classes that girls weren’t encouraged to take. I don’t really know if it would have helped me. With the professor’s accent combined with a thick textbook that had a lot of big words and formulas, I gave it my best shot. Then we had our first exam.

Unsure of any answer I might give on the exam, fearful of  ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ scoring, I turned in my exam sheet. If misery loves company, the class was a huge love fest. No one did well on it. Not the honors kids, not the average kids, and not me. There was a curve, but you would think you could do better than scoring twenty on the test.

My classmates and I reeled from the results. Test after test yielded the same outcome. A lot of the guys were members of a fraternity and I had befriended some of them. They invited me over to their house, joining their study group. (You see, ladies, there are some perks to being in a male dominated field.)

It didn’t have much of an effect on any of our grades. We hit each exam with renewed optimism only to have it slammed down like a load of sauerkraut on a Reuben sandwich. I got a C. In both semesters.

I did learn the concepts but the physics-speak that I needed to get decent grades on the tests just never came. As a result, I’m no Isaac Newton, but I can play a pretty good game of pool.


About stemzandroses

I'm an engineer and writer with a built-in need to share my nearly 40 years of experience working in a male-dominated field with the rest of the world.
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6 Responses to The ***** for Engineers Classes

  1. CE Jones says:

    I started out majoring in Music. Shhhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone. I not really that musical. But, one course was the Physics of Music. In one problem, we had to figure out if a person clapped their hands in front of a building with stone steps, one foot tall and one foot deep, what note would be returned in the echo.

    That was the extent of my physics courses.

    Of course, the other one is that if a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, is there sound? I always said yes. Others looked up the definition of sound and said no.

    • I still run into people who think physics has some kind of mysterious connotations. The concepts aren’t magic, but as I learned, the delivery by the professor makes all the difference in the world.

  2. Vicki says:

    I took calculus in my junior year taught by a Japanese graduate student who thought he spoke English, but didn’t. I sat in that class for 2 weeks and finally admitted to myself I had not understood a word he had said since the first day. I wasn’t even sure what his name was. Dropped the class. Never went back. That and organic chemistry are why I don’t have a degree in Zoology. Still have nightmares about it. I’m sitting in a class and everyone is talking but I don’t know what they are saying. Shudder.

  3. Kim says:

    I had almost the opposite situation, because my Humanities electives & minors pulled my GPA up.

    I did take high school physics… with my Dad as the teacher. I’m not sure how much I learned. College physics was so-so, I think I managed B’s.

    I had some engineering classes where I really shone and made A’s and B’s, but there were several that I struggled with. Part of it was that I took a FULL courseload every semester, 15-18 credits. Band took much more time than the 2 hours of credit revealed, but it was also a consistent time when I could just focus on playing.

    • I’m not sure why many of my fellow students and I had such a hard time with those classes or why we ran into the attitudes we did. Hopefully it’s not that bad at OU these days.

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