P.C. Rossin College of
Engineering and Applied Science
The Lehigh Women Engineers preLUsion program helps build confidence, trust, and lasting friendship

It was hot and humid, storm clouds were building up fast, and there was still one more element of the ropes course left to do.

But first, it was time to chill out for a few minutes. Six of the members of the Lehigh Women Engineers (LWE) preLUsion program—there are 21 in total—and three of their mentors were sitting in a circle on the grass behind Lehigh’s ATLSS Engineering Research Center. It was near the end of their three-day pre-orientation, and already they had formed the bonds that are the ultimate goal of all the university’s preLUsion experiences.

“I’ve been able to have conversations with each of the girls, and they’re all really interesting and really cool,” says Tricia Saint Forz ’23, a bioengineering major. “It’s nice to get to know them, and hopefully further those relationships throughout the years that we’re together.”

LWE is one of 10 programs that were offered as part of the mid-August, campus-wide preLUsion program. As part of the experience, first-year students move in early, and through a variety of activities and outings, get familiar with campus and the surrounding area. 

A scavenger hunt introduced LWE participants to the many buildings, resources, and services they might need. They conducted mini lab experiments and met faculty across the departments to learn about the different engineering fields. They also did a lot of trust-building exercises—like the ropes course—as a team. The very first thing they did, however, was socialize and learn something fun about each other. After that, they broke into small groups that they remained with until the end.

“Students have told us that the women in their preLUsion group become their closest friends,” says Christina Viau Haden, a professor of practice in mechanical engineering and mechanics and organizer of the LWE program. “In a lot of the engineering departments, women are underrepresented. So this gives them a network of women they can rely on and who they can support throughout their four years here.”

Viau Haden also gave the students a workshop on how to survive their first year at Lehigh, teaching them about everything from time management and goal setting to overcoming procrastination and bringing the right things to class.  

“I try to leave them inspired that they have great value to each other,” says Viau Haden. “And while they may not realize it, they’re going to rub elbows with each other for the rest of their Lehigh careers.” 

Chloe Norvell ’21 definitely left the program inspired. She’s now been a mentor for it twice.

“I’m from Las Vegas, and when I first came here, I knew literally no one,” says Norvell, a computer science and engineering major. “I loved my mentors, and I’m still really good friends with a lot of them. They were a valuable resource to me throughout the year, and so I wanted to do that for another generation of women engineers. It’s nice being one of the first people the girls meet on campus, and being able to mentor them throughout the year, and being the person that people feel like they can come to and ask advice. I loved how the older girls did that for me and so I wanted to pass that along.”

She got the chance to do that soon enough as the young engineers all got up and headed over to figure out their last problem of the day—how to get all nine of them from one small rectangular platform to another via a rope swing they couldn’t reach.

preLUsion ropes course
preLUsion ropes course
“Students have told us that the women in their preLUsion group become their closest friends. In a lot of the engineering departments, women are underrepresented. So this gives them a network of women they can rely on and who they can support throughout their four years here.”
Christina Viau Haden, a professor of practice in mechanical engineering and mechanics and organizer of the LWE program
Christina Viau Haden

Christina Viau Haden