Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

One-Stop STEM Shop: Canada College's STEM Center Is Teaching the Next Generation of High School and College Students through Its All-Encompassing Math, Science, Technology and Engineering Center

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

One-Stop STEM Shop: Canada College's STEM Center Is Teaching the Next Generation of High School and College Students through Its All-Encompassing Math, Science, Technology and Engineering Center

Article excerpt

Just a few short years ago, northern California's Canada College had many of the elements necessary to position minority students in STEM for success. Grants were put toward programs and support services like MESA (math, engineering, science achievement), an academic preparation program; scholarships from the National Science Foundation and the SOLES project, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education through the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) to increase recruitment, retention and success in STEM. However, over time, various grants would expire at various points, and some programs that students depended on disappeared.

That's how the STEM Center was created.

"We decided to design a structure on our campus that would be an umbrella for all the different programs and funding sources that come and go that create longevity in support services" says Danni Redding Lapuz, project director of the now nearly two-year-old STEM Center.

In 2012, the college created the STEM Center, an all-encompassing center that consolidated various programs and STEM-related offerings under one roof. The college was awarded a $6 million grant from the Department of Education in 2011 for the one-stop shop, which helped get the center off the ground.

At the center, faculty can learn how to get funding for projects or organize field trips or events, and students receive STEM-related counseling and support services. The school's MESA program, intensive Math and Physics Jam programs, tutoring, scholarship offerings, the Summer Engineering Institute and other programs were also moved under the resource center, which, ultimately, has made things run more efficiently for the college.

"We wanted to get rid of redundancies;' says Redding Lapuz. "We wanted to make it very accessible for students. We were able to look at all of our services in one big picture and say, 'Where are the holes?'

"Our model was to really utilize all the resources and space we have here and maximize it," she adds.

After almost two years in existence, the center is now receiving national recognition for its triumphs. In its first year, the STEM Center's Math Jam served about 50 students; today; that number has jumped to around 400. This year, the STEM Center was awarded the Example of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education and two awards for its Math Jam component. Since its inception in 2009, Math Jam has shown an increase in retention and success for math courses taken in the next semester--retention is at 93 percent for Math Jam participants versus 77 percent for non-participants. About 77 percent of participating Math Jam students have received passing grades, compared to 53 percent of non-participants.

Student involvement is also up. Thirty-eight students took internships this year through a variety of schools and programs, from NASA and San Francisco State University to Brown, Princeton, Stanford and SRI International. This is in comparison to the center's first year, when only three students took on internships. Canada overall has seen a 43 percent increase in STEM enrollment and a 183 percent jump in math enrollment, thanks to the STEM Center and its many pipeline, support and extracurricular programs. The number of STEM clubs created by students has also grown from two to six.

Firsthand experience

All of this has other schools like Merced College in Merced, Calif. and Mission College in Santa Clara taking note and hoping to create STEM Centers of their own.

"I know there is a surge of STEM Centers popping up around the country because of the importance of STEM at the political level and the financial level," says Redding Lapuz. "One thing that is a little different here is the collective approach versus the one-man approach. A lot of campuses are struggling with that. …

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