$2 million grant funds joint effort by UCSC and Silicon Valley community colleges to support engineering students

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has joined with two prominent Silicon Valley community colleges--Foothill College and De Anza College--to launch a new program that will help students prepare for careers in engineering. Funded by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Developing Effective Engineering Pathways (DEEP) program gives community college students the guidance and preparation they need to transfer into engineering programs at UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering, and supports transfer students at UCSC with services and programs to ensure that they successfully complete a four-year degree.

Steve Kang, dean of the Baskin School of Engineering, said the DEEP program is an exciting example of how community colleges and universities can work together to improve educational opportunities in science and engineering.

"We are working with two major community colleges to motivate and guide students who are interested in engineering so that they can make a seamless transition into our engineering programs," Kang said.

The DEEP program aims to get more students interested in engineering careers and help them succeed in the necessary course work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (called "STEM" courses in education policy circles). The program is particularly focused on meeting the needs of students from groups that have been underrepresented in science and engineering careers, said Carrol Moran, director of UCSC's Educational Partnership Center, which oversees the DEEP program.

"NSF has a strong interest in getting more underrepresented minorities and women into engineering programs," Moran said.

The partners in the DEEP program, which also include the NASA Ames Research Center, are already engaged with one another through the Collaborative for Higher Education. The collaborative was formed in 2000 by UCSC, Foothill-De Anza Community College District, and San Jose State University to coordinate the delivery of education and training in the STEM areas at the partner institutions.

"This grant will enable Foothill and De Anza to expand our work in providing educational opportunity for all, particularly students who are underrepresented in math and science," said Martha J. Kanter, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

"There are many students with the talent and the drive to succeed in engineering careers who need the support this grant will provide. In addition, this is an exciting opportunity for Foothill-De Anza to further solidify our work as a collaborative with UCSC and San Jose State, with students as the beneficiaries," Kanter said.

Nancy Bussani, executive director of the Collaborative for Higher Education, emphasized that the new program builds on an established partnership.

"The three systems are already working together to improve the pipeline for higher education in math and science," Bussani said.

The DEEP program includes collaborative course work, tutorial services, academic counseling, summer programs, and research opportunities. A "Cyber Mentors" program will offer online advising, mentoring, and tutoring provided by undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and engineers working in industry. The five-year grant also provides opportunities for student internships in industry. At UCSC, program participants will become part of a residential learning community of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty, all working together to ensure that engineering transfer students successfully make the transition into the university.

This multifaceted approach is tailored to meet the specific needs of students at different stages along the educational pathway toward earning a four-year engineering degree. The program also ties in with an existing state-funded program for high school students run by the Collaborative for Higher Education, said Edward Landesman, education director for the collaborative and a UCSC professor emeritus of mathematics.

"This new grant is a wonderful opportunity to extend the educational pipeline from the high schools to the community colleges and over to UCSC, and it's a terrific collaboration between these institutions," Landesman said.

"We will work with students on their math and science skills, show them how the concepts they're learning are applied in industry and at NASA Ames, and connect them with students in engineering programs at UCSC," he said. "The idea is to motivate them, make sure they have the appropriate preparation, and after they get to UCSC we'll continue to provide help with the academics, keep them motivated, and make sure they succeed."

The engineering programs at UCSC focus on the core areas of information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. By training students in these areas, the DEEP program will help meet the future workforce needs of the region and the nation, Kang said.

The program's goals are in line with the recommendations of a report released last year by the NSF's governing board, the National Science Board. The report, entitled The Science and Engineering Workforce - Realizing America's Potential, called for increased participation of American minorities and women in science and engineering education and research. The report emphasized the need to maintain an ample and well-educated workforce and reduce reliance on trained workers from other countries, noting that science and technology are engines of U.S. economic growth and national security.

The NSF report is only the latest to document the long-term need for the United States to produce more scientists and engineers.

"New fields and innovations are always emerging--like nanotechnology, where UCSC has real strengths--and there will be a void to fill for a new generation of scientists and engineers," Landesman said.