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New program to increase minority students in science, engineering

STANFORD -- Stanford University, in conjunction with six other universities and with support from the National Science Foundation, is embarking on a five-year program to recruit, retain, fund and graduate more minority students in engineering and the sciences.

The programs will begin with the next academic year and run through at least 1998, according to Noe Paul Lozano of the School of Engineering.

"We are expecting to decrease the number of minorities who 'switch' out of engineering into other majors, and increase the graduation rate for those who declare engineering," Lozano said.

The school hopes to increase its graduation rate for minorities (currently 88 percent in four or five years) to close to 100 percent.

The National Science Foundation's newly formed Alliance for Minority Participation includes three historically black colleges and universities (North Carolina A&T State University, Southern University in Louisiana and Prairie View A&M in Texas) and four major research universities (Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington and the University of Texas-Austin).

The NSF has committed $1 million per year for the program. Stanford will receive five annual grants of $132,500, for a total of $662,500, for its role in the effort.

Lozano, associate dean for student affairs and director for Minority and Affirmative Action Programs in the School of Engineering, will oversee the programs along with Professor Reginald Mitchell, mechanical engineering.

The new alliance, Lozano said, proposes a comprehensive plan that focuses on the retention of undergraduate minority students in science and engineering. Attention will also be directed toward high school and community college students who may want help in deciding whether to study in the sciences or engineering.

All seven universities involved, Lozano said, seek programs "with the philosophy of community-building principles to develop stronger and long-lasting environments of support for minority students."

Discussions at Stanford have already led to a plan to develop programs in three areas: academic enrichment, outreach and community college "linkages," and corporate involvement.

Specific programs Stanford plans to introduce include:

  • Travel grants for recently admitted high school seniors who have expressed an interest in majoring in engineering. The students would also be scheduled for informal meetings with key engineering faculty and staff.
  • Mini-grants for summer sessions for recently admitted high school seniors who want to brush up on calculus, chemistry, physics or other courses at a local community college or state university before enrolling at Stanford.
  • A possible summer "bridge" program modeled after the successful Stanford American Indian Summer Institute Program.
  • Special summer research experiences to solidify faculty and student mentoring relationships, where none have existed in the past.
  • New approaches in math, science and engineering courses that focus on group study and support while using a collaborative learning approach and building on extra problem-solving analytical skills, particularly in those courses that are "gatekeeper," or "weed-out," courses.
  • "Second-chance" programs for technically inclined students who have talent but have failed to take advantage of the resources and services available to them.
  • Corporate matching grants for those students who want to improve their academic performance by taking prerequisites during the summer.
  • Special exchanges with community college professors who teach predominantly minority students and who want to reform their curriculum to match the requirements at Stanford.
  • And, corporate involvement in industrial scholarship, internship and co-op programs.

Lozano and Mitchell will work out the details of implementing the programs with a group of faculty and administrators that include: James Montoya, director of undergraduate admissions; Michael Jackson, dean of students; Cheryll Hawthorne-Searight, assistant dean for student affairs in the School of Engineering; Jim Larimore, assistant dean of students; Michele Marincovich, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning; Hector Cuevas, director of undergraduate advising; and Professors Brad Osgood (mathematics), Mason Yearian (physics) and John Bravman (materials science and engineering).

In addition, James Gibbons, dean of the School of Engineering, has provided vital support for the new programs and will offer matching funds of 1.5 to 1, Lozano said.



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