Dordt grad engineers her return to campus

Evangeline Colarossi—Staff Writer

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Dr. Manuela Ayee is one of the many new additions to Dordt’s faculty this year. A Dordt alumna herself, she now serves as an assistant professor of engineering, focusing on Chemical Engineering classes.

Originally from Ghana, Ayee grew up in several different countries before her family moved to Sioux Center over a decade ago. At that time, her father taught in the Dordt Communication Department and her mother both taught Sociology and served as the Coordinator for Minority and International Students at Dordt. She finished her Bachelor’s at Dordt, her Masters at Iowa State University and her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She stayed there to work as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Medicine. She focused on research and taught a little at the Department of Medicine before deciding to return to Dordt to begin a faculty position.

Before college, Ayee knew she really enjoyed science and admits that math also held a special place in her heart. After taking a career placement test, she knew Chemical Engineering was what she wanted to do. Her Ph.D has a concentration in Computational Biomedicine, allowing her to use the skills and tools of a chemical engineer, while still applying them to biomedical problems. It mixes engineering, biology, medicine and computer science.

When Ayee attended Dordt, Chemical Engineering was not yet offered, so she majored in Engineering Science with an emphasis in Chemistry. Mechanical and Electrical Engineering were the only specific engineering majors offered then, but Dordt has now expanded to four engineering majors and six engineering concentrations.

Ayee currently teaches Introduction to Engineering Analysis, a math class for freshman engineers. In addition to building up important mathematical skills, it helps students test where their strengths lie and determine if engineering is the best fit for them.

“I want to be helpful at the beginning,” she said, “as the students determine what they want to do and get the fundamental information they need to continue.”

She also looks forward to teaching several more advanced courses in the future. Next semester, she will be teaching a Chemical Engineering-specific course, along with an introductory Chemistry class. This will give her more experience with freshman and sophomore engineers, along with letting her work with Chemical Engineering upperclassmen.

“I’m hoping my presence will help some students decide if Chemical Engineering is for them,” she said.

Ayee not only works alongside both her previous professors and some former classmates. “It’s a huge blessing, almost like a homecoming,” she said, adding that these familiar faces have helped to make the transition into a teaching role at Dordt much easier.

This is Ayee’s first faculty position, but she glorifies God for directing her here, and for the students’ lives and educations she gets to be a part of. While she doesn’t have a favorite class to teach, she does have a favorite aspect of teaching.

“It’s that moment of recognition I see in a student’s eyes,” she said. “That, for me, is the reward. The point when someone actually understands and knows that they can do it now on their own. That moment can be reached in any subject.”

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