Danielle Fredette returns to teach electrical engineering
by Rebekah Erway
Cedarville University graduate Danielle Fredette has returned to the college this semester as an assistant professor of electrical engineering.
Fredette, formerly Scarpone, graduated from Cedarville in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. She went on to earn a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Ohio State University and is currently working on her doctoral degree in computer engineering.
Fredette said after graduate school she had a choice between going into full-time research or teaching.
“All along,” she said, “I’ve been a lot more interested in students than in research.”
As a graduate student, Fredette gained research funding, which meant she never had the time or necessity to get an official teaching job, but she tried to get as much volunteer teaching experience as she could. She taught summer engineering camp labs, did course development and gave seminars.
Cedarville was Fredette’s first job application. She said she chose Cedarville because the university has only an undergraduate program in engineering, so she will spend most of her time on teaching.“I also really like it here,” she said.
Fredette said she realizes coming back to the school she graduated from may be difficult. She explained there are two main schools of thought on hiring back alumni. The first argues for it because alumni are already familiar with the culture of the college or university. The second argues against hiring alumni because they lack the variety of opinions needed in a flourishing learning environment. According to this second argument, Fredette said, alumni should at least go somewhere else before returning, “which I kind of did.”
“Knowing that people think that, I’m hoping that going into this, I can maintain my own ideas about things, and not just say, ‘Oh, you’re my favorite professor, so I’ll do whatever you say,’” she said. “To be respectful, but hopefully bring some of the ideas I’ve gotten from not here to add to the pool.”
Fredette also said she likes that she is familiar with the Cedarville culture after coming here as a student.
“[Cedarville has] a lot more expectations than, just, you’re smart and you can teach,” she said. “There’s all the doctrinal stuff, which I think is wonderful, but somebody coming in might be taken aback by all of that.”
Fredette said she thinks knowing the culture and what other people want from her will make her teaching position more comfortable for her, other professors, and students.
As professor and alumna, Fredette will be working as a colleague to professors who used to teach her as an undergrad student. One, professor of electrical engineering Jeff Shortt, said he remembered Fredette as a good student.
“She’s smart. Very energetic, interactive,” Shortt said. “[As a student, Fredette] would enter lecture discussion, had plenty of questions, struck me as a self-starter. She would ask a question until she understood it.”
Shortt taught Fredette in three different courses during her junior and senior year as an undergraduate. He said he is looking forward to interacting with Fredette now that she has returned.
“It’s going to be different because I knew her as a student and of course she’s now back as a colleague,” Shortt said. “I’m not saying she’s grown up – she was already grown up – just a different level, different way of thinking about her.”
Shortt said he was not surprised to hear that Fredette was coming back to teach at Cedarville. He said he could see it was one of her goals even before she left for graduate school.
“I think to have that ministry is a special gift,” Shortt said.
Shortt also said he is interested in seeing how Fredette teaches her courses. He said he is willing to offer her advice if she asks but that she has interesting ideas on how to lead a class already.
Shortt is looking forward to seeing how Fredette’s time as a professor will play out.
“I used to be serving her [as a teacher],” he said. “Now I’ll be serving with her.”
Shortt said he expects Fredette to get along well with the students. He saw how she was involved in campus life when she was a student, and he said he would not be surprised if she continued to be involved in some way as a faculty member.
“She’ll be a huge part of some students lives,” he said.Fredette said she is looking forward to interacting with students and other people more than she has in the past two years as a researcher. She said that, to the extent that she continues research, she hopes to involve students.
Fredette’s younger age in comparison to other professors may affect how she interacts with students. Fredette said she has already been confused for an undergrad by students.
“I know I’m young, but I’m not a student,” Fredette said. “I guess I’ll only get older and then it’ll become more apparent.”
Fredette also said she may find teaching at Cedarville more awkward than at another school because both Fredette’s sister, Rebecca Scarpone, 2013 graduate, and her brother, Nathan Scarpone, also chose to come to Cedarville. Fredette said students who remembered her sister had already confused the two of them. She has also run into her brother’s friends in the Hive.
Even though the two are siblings, Nathan Scarpone, a junior accounting major, said he is glad that Fredette chose to come back to Cedarville to teach.
“Her being professor here makes perfect sense,” Scarpone said. “As soon as she came here, she fell in love with the school.”
Scarpone said he will enjoy having the chance to spend some more time with his sister, now that she and her husband, Luke Fredette, have moved closer to campus. He recommends that other students take the opportunity to head over to Fredette’s house to try a meal made by her or her husband, who are both good cooks.
“As a starving college student, if you go to their house, it’s a pretty nice setup,” he said.
But, Scarpone said he is excited for his sister’s opportunity more than for anything else.
“I knew [coming back] was something she wanted to do, and to see her actually complete it and do it is really cool,” he said. “Me as a student, she’s where I want to be in a few years. It’s like, ‘Hey, it works out if you keep it up.’”
Scarpone also said he thinks Fredette will be a good addition to the engineering department.
“I think she’ll bring a great air to the campus,” he said. “As a professor, I think she’ll be good at helping students understand things, driving them to do better, incentivizing [them] to learn and thrive in this engineering world.”
Starting this semester, Fredette will teach C++ programming, Engineering Analysis, and a Digital Logic Design lab. Fredette said she is looking forward to these classes and whatever further responsibilities she may gain later on.
“I’ll try to be a cool professor, but I don’t make any promises about being easy,” Fredette said. “The people here are really good. There’s a quality student at CU, and I’m going to enjoy that. Being elsewhere has taught me that.”
Rebekah Erway is a junior journalism major and campus news editor for Cedars. She is a diehard Disney, Veggietales, and Lord of the Rings fan and enjoys speaking in a British accent.