UM engineering student pursues her studies with great diligence

November 13, 1990|By Patricia Meisol

Some people frighten their fellow passengers on roller coaster rides by screaming. In line at an amusement park this summer, Andrea Bartoletti did it by talking about whether the coaster's beams could hold the stress.

A senior mechanical engineering major at the University of Maryland College Park, where 17 percent of her classmates are women, Ms. Bartoletti has jumped through an extra set of hoops to be able to assess the structure of bridges.

For starters, she came to college without the requisite physics and calculus because her all-girls high school didn't offer them.

The disadvantage caused her grade-point average to dip a fraction below the 3.0 required to keep her scholarship. When her appeal to the College of Engineering failed, she found herself juggling 17 credits and a part-time job.

Ms. Bartoletti, a Maryland Distinguished scholar and high school valedictorian, was more successful getting into one of the few classes taught by a woman. She says she got the faculty member to intervene when her male adviser insisted she take the same course at the same time from a male professor.

Her parents, neither of whom went to college, were surprised but supportive of her choice, she says, and helped out financially when she lost her scholarship. Her mostly male peers took more convincing.

"They can't believe you want to do it just because you want to do it. They ask you, 'Did your parents push you into it?' " she says. But after four years, "They get to know you. They know you're worth something if you are still here."

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