Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Stem Initiatives at City College of New York: A Formula for Success

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Stem Initiatives at City College of New York: A Formula for Success

Article excerpt

As the largest urban college in the U.S., and as a leading Hispanic-Serving lnstitution, City College of New York (CCNY) has a strong history of creating programs that have increased the participation and retention rates of Hispanles, as well as women and other underrepresented groups. This is especially true of several initiatives at CCNY aimed at improving participation in the STEM disciplines. Many are designed to not just improve participation at the undergraduate level but to open the pipeline at every level, through postgraduate work.

At the end of 2011, a promising new partnership between CCNY and Stanford University suffered a setback when Stanford pulled out of its bid to build a new $2.5 billion applied science and engineering school on Roosevelt Island. (The contract was ultimately awarded to Cornell University in conjunction with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.) Nevertheless, Stanford and CCNY have pledged to continue working together and will be developing a more modest partnership in 2012, with the aim of establishing an on-campus Stanford presence at City College.

While disappointing, this setback does not diminish the significance of CCNY's impressive array of initiatives aimed at supporting minority participation and retention in STEMs. Among these initiatives are three that particularly stand out, whether for their ambitious goals or for their proven success: the brand-new Alliance for the Continuous Innovative Learning Environments in STEM (GILES) Initiative, to be implemented in the fall of 2012; Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM), established in partnership with the University of Chicago and aimed at supporting minority participation in materials research; and lastly, the NIH Minority Scholars program, now in its final year, but having established highly successful methodologies for improving minority participation in STEM.

These initiatives were developed to address an ongoing issue in the STEM disciplines. Minorities, while already underrepresented in higher learning relative to their numbers in the general population, are even more underrepresented in science and engineering. Hispanles are particularly underrepresented; while they represent more than 16 percent of the nation's population, fewer than 14 percent of engineering degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities in 2008 went to Hispanics. As Hispanles continue to gain an everincreasing share of the overall population, the issue of underrepresentation in STEM disciplines takes on greater urgency.

CILES Initiative

One of the newest STEM initiatives at CCNY, the GILES program, the Alliance for the Continuous Innovative Learning Environments in STEM, will be run in partnership with two CUNY community colleges, Hostos and LaGuardia. Funded by a five-year, $4 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education, it will be primarily housed at the City University of New York CREST center (the Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center) . Six new classrooms, two at each campus, will also be constructed to support the program.

GILES will address several objectives, including improving articulation programs designed to help STEM students transfer to CCNY from Hostos and LaGuardia; attracting students to the STEM fields via outreach at elementary and high schools; and supporting students' learning needs at every stage of the process, from high school through graduate school. In terms of numbers, the initial goal is ambitious: increase the number of majors in earth system science and environmental engineering from 81 to 160 by fall 2016.

Dr. Jorge González, NOAA-CREST Professor of Mechanical Engineering at CCNY, said of the new initiative: "That is the key of the program - to improve retention of the student undergraduate population in STEM and at the same time open the pipeline all the way to high school. Part of the reason is we've learned that about half of our undergrad population is coming from transfers from community colleges. …

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