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MESA’s Community College Program (MCCP) is the newest addition to Washington MESA’s educational programs and services. Supported with funding from the Nation Science Foundation (NSF, Award #0856830), its goal is to increase the number of underrepresented (African American, Native American, Latino, and Pacific Islander/Hawaiian) community college students who successfully transfer to four-year institutions and earn STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) bachelor’s degrees.
This is achieved by providing academic and transfer support services such as academic advising, professional development, Academic Excellence Workshops (AEW’s) and a student study center (STEM Center) with a dedicated director at each participating campus, so underrepresented STEM students may excel academically.
Currently, there are six community colleges establishing MESA Community College Programs and centers, with two partnering universities (University of Washington and Washington State University). Partners include:
- Columbia Basin College
- Edmonds Community College
- Highline Community College
- Olympic College
- Seattle Central Community College
- Yakima Valley Community College
Academic Excellence Workshops (AEWs) are the backbone of a good MESA program. They are used by all segments of the MESA Program: pre-college, the community college level, and, in other states, at the university-level MESA Engineering Programs (MEP). The workshops are modeled after the UC Berkeley PDP Program, the Uri Treisman model and the very successful model at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Academic Excellence Workshops are offered to ensure the academic success of URM STEM students.
Unfortunately, this grant does not offer money for student’s scholarship. However, many opportunities for student scholarships exist, and if you have never dealt with helping students find these opportunities, it can be a daunting task. You are an advocate for students in finding these resources, and first and foremost, all students should be encouraged to apply for federal aid. The state of Washington also offers certain need-based scholarships, as well as academic merit scholarships. Many community colleges also have foundation and institution scholarships. Familiarize yourself with these opportunities and send them on to your students via email (easiest way) or word of mouth and with flyers in your center. Second, know your campus resource centers, such as the scholarship office or Financial Aid office that often posts these announcement; befriend the directors of those services and ask them to email you scholarship information that you may pass on to your students. Third, MESA state office staff will also forward opportunities that you can offer your students. Becoming a “expert advocate” will take time. Getting students to actually apply is yet another challenge, so consider seeking out scholarship workshops (on your campus or feeder universities) that assist and teach the students how to search, apply for, and receive scholarship funding.
Each year the program’s effectiveness is assessed by measuring progress towards grant goals and monitoring participants through enrollment, persistence, retention, and transfer. The consortium of MESA community colleges and the partnering universities work collectively to provide the academic support structure to ensure that the community of learners have an enriching environment to grow academically.
Space is at a premium on every campus. However, the establishment of a STEM center must be secured. The space should be well-signed and accessible—a space that MESA students can call a ‘home away from home’ that addresses academic and social (learning community) needs. Many community college partners require students to “log in” to a computer system, so that the campus/division may keep track of student center usage, often converting that clocked time into funding. Some community college partners offer a small space at the main center, and reserve adjacent classrooms in order to meet demands of students and to offer AEWs. We will work with all campuses to help identify a space for the MESA Study Center.
In general, the MESA Community College Program model is not a tutoring program. Instead, we offer academic support in the form of Academic Excellence Workshops (AEWs), with peer-led sessions supported by faculty. Tutoring is considered above and beyond the basic MESA model, and many MESA programs have offered these services. This is a welcomed service. Thus, if your budget funds permit and you are offering AEWs, the key gate keeper courses, and still have funding, tutors may be hired. If tutoring is already offered on you campus, your MESA students can access those service. We seek to offer focused, direct services to MESA students. Partnerships can be brokered with your existing tutoring services where they may offer jobs to your students and perhaps even provide tutors in your center. You may broker a deal where you each pay 10 hours of a student’s salary to provide a part-time job for the students. Where the student will tutor will be an issue to consider.