Doctoral student returns to Louisiana Tech to make a difference

Nov 1, 2023 | Engineering and Science, General News, Students

This fall, Louisiana Tech University’s College of Engineering and Science (COES) had a nearly 10 percent increase in doctoral program enrollment. Why do Louisiana Tech engineering and science PhD programs attract students?

Doctoral Engineering student Ashton Ward, the unique mix of community, research and outreach opportunities, academic excellence, engaged faculty, and a well-respected Engineering Education concentration are just a few reasons she chose to earn her doctorate from Louisiana Tech.

Another reason is that moving back to Ruston felt like coming home for Ward, who graduated from Louisiana Tech’s Electrical Engineering program in 2018, her husband Austin, who also earned an engineering degree from Louisiana Tech (Chemical Engineering ‘17) and their two-year-old daughter.

“My time at Tech for my undergrad was an amazing experience! I loved that the engineering program introduced me to all types of engineering before I had to choose one. I eventually settled on Electrical Engineering. I also loved meeting my husband and getting married in Ruston!

“My favorite things about being a Tech grad student are being back in Ruston and all the COES faculty. Ruston is a great place to be. All the COES faculty I have interacted with so far since I came back have been welcoming and more than happy to help me out with whatever I need!”

“Ruston is a great place to raise a family, and my family is nearby in Monroe. My husband and I both loved our time at Tech, and Tech has an engineering education PhD track. Plus, Tech is the best engineering school in the state, in my opinion!”

Despite being busy with studies, research, and raising a family, Ward returned to Tech with a commitment to mentorship and empowering the next generation of female engineers. As an undergrad, Ward had been a COES Senator on Tech’s Student Government Association, a COES Ambassador, a member of Kappa Delta Sorority, and a leader in the college ministry team at Temple Baptist Church. When she returned to Louisiana Tech this fall, she looked for new opportunities to contribute to the Engineering and Science community. She found those in the American Society of Engineering Education and the Office of Women in Science and Engineering (OWISE).

Within a few weeks of beginning her doctoral studies, Ward participated in the inaugural INSPIRE (Introducing New Skills and Proficiencies through Immersive Reassuring Experiences) workshop, where she shared her experiences and insights with incoming female engineering students.

Besides outreach, Ward will have a positive influence on future Louisiana Tech engineering students through her research, guided by her advisor, Dr. Krystal Cruse (First-Year Engineering Programs Coordinator, Director of the Office for Women in Science and Engineering, and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering), centers on enhancing hands-on learning experiences for sophomore-level circuits courses—a fundamental component of the Living with the Lab engineering curriculum. Her unique perspective, combining her five years of industry experience at Entergy Nuclear division of Enercon Services, Inc. with her academic background, which includes a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Arkansas, gives her theoretical and real-world knowledge to help add innovative techniques and adjustments to the curriculum.

“I think my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering plus my job in industry have set me up for success in grad school. I can remember back to my days taking this same circuits class. Plus, since I have an industry perspective, I’m very interested in showing students how the things they learn in their undergrad are applied in the real world.”

“Ashton is a prime example of why our engineering and science graduate programs are successful,” COES Graduate Studies Coordinator of Retention and Recruitment Stephanie Robinson said. “Her willingness to ensure that future engineers are positively affected by her service is very inspiring. I’m elated to see that our enrollment has increased this year, and I hope to see a significant increase by the start of the next academic year. Students like Ashton show how these programs can make a direct impact in our region and around the world.”

“I’m thrilled to have Ashton back at Louisiana Tech and conducting research in the field of engineering education with me,” Cruse added. “Her perspective is truly unique, coming from the industry while also having first-hand experience with the Louisiana Tech curriculum that her research will be built upon. Ashton has already dived into various engineering education initiatives on campus and has shared her experiences with student groups, both as a former student and an industry professional. I look forward to the significant contributions I know she’ll make during her time as a graduate student here.”