The U.S. Department of Education has awarded California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) a five-year, $4.4 million grant to help increase the number of Latino students earning degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
Awarded through the department’s Hispanic Serving Institution’s (HSI) STEM and Articulation Programs, the grant will be used to develop the CSULB HSI STEM program Promotores de STEM with the purpose of improving the lack of highly qualified, first generation-educated Latino graduates prepared to pursue graduate degrees in the STEM fields.
Activities planned for the program include: engaging Latino STEM students in summer programs; connecting Latino STEM students to a faculty mentor and other students in their major; annual advising; participation in learning communities; supplemental instruction and tutoring; providing transfer Latino students with an understanding of, and appreciation for, research experiences that help lead to careers in STEM fields; introducing STEM students to a research experience and the process of discovery; and creating a community of engaged learners.
“Our hope is that this grant will help us encourage more Latino students to ultimately pursue careers in the natural sciences, technology, math and engineering-related disciplines,” said CSULB President F. King Alexander. “As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Cal State Long Beach is in a great position to make a significant impact in this area, and this grant will further allow us to make continued strides in addressing the academic and professional success of our Latino students.”
The HSI-STEM program includes CSULB’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM) and College of Engineering (COE) with Susan Gomez Zwiep, associate professor of science education, Eric Marinez, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Alvaro Monge, professor of computer engineering and computer science, and Britt Rios-Ellis, professor of health science and director of the NCLR/CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training, serving as co-principal investigators (co-PIs) for the program.
“Many of our students enter college but may not have the academic experiences needed to prepare them for these rigorous fields,” agreed co-PIs Monge, Marinez, Gomez-Zwiep, and Rios-Ellis. “Through this approach, we hope to honor their educational resilience, family and ethnic heritage, and cultural backgrounds to ensure their success in the STEM fields through mentoring and linkage to university services, cultural alignment of our services, and additional opportunities provided for high achieving Latino mentors.”
CSULB is among the nation’s top 10 colleges and universities in conferring bachelor’s degrees to Hispanic students and in awarding master’s degrees to Hispanic students. In fall 2010, Latino/ Hispanic students made up 29.2 percent of the CSULB student body, making them the largest ethnic group at the university. However, in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Engineering, Latino representation remains approximately two-thirds that of the university overall.
“Although the university has been very successful in conferring bachelor’s degrees to Latino students, we are cognizant that a great deal of work still needs to be done to ensure that incoming Latino students remain in the STEM fields and achieve their career goals regardless of the discipline,” agreed the co-PI team. “We are definitely lacking Latino scientists, physicians and engineers, and we hope that this grant will help us take a big step in the right direction.”
A Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is defined as a non-profit institution that has at least 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent enrollment and, of that Hispanic enrollment, at least 50 percent are low income. CSULB obtained its HSI eligibility status in fall 2005.
Grants are awarded to HSI institutions to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the academic attainment of, Hispanic students. In addition, they are designed to enhance the academic offerings, program quality and institutional stability of colleges and universities that are educating the majority of Latino college students and other low-income individuals completing post-secondary degrees.