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Green River College expands program supporting STEM students

By Philip Denman, October 18, 2017

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A new program at Green River College will focus on helping students of color and women transfer to universities for STEM-related degrees and careers.

MESA — which stands for Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement — serves students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Pacific Islanders and women.

Most MESA students are the first in their families to attend college, are low-income, and have not been exposed to STEM curricula and career choices. MESA provides these students tutoring and mentoring, extra study sessions, transfer counseling and study centers to help them succeed in math and science before they transfer for further study.

According to Green River President Suzanne Johnson, the MESA program aligns with the college’s mission to ensure student success through comprehensive educational programs and support services responsive to our diverse communities.

“We strive to support student success and to meet student needs for access to and inclusion in their educational pursuits,” Johnson said. “The MESA program allows us to reach out to traditionally underrepresented students and show them that not only do they have a place at Green River College, but also a future in STEM fields.”

Green River is one of 12 colleges within the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) system to off the program. MESA is also offered at: Olympic College, Edmonds Community College, Seattle Central College, Highline College, Yakima Valley College, Columbia Basin College, Clark College (Vancouver), Everett Community College, Spokane Falls Community College, Tacoma Community College and Wenatchee Valley College.

Each college will receive $125,000 annually to support the MESA program.

Research by SBCTC shows that colleges offering MESA have greater diversity among graduates with Associate of Science-Transfer degrees.

Michael Schultzer, CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association, credited the Legislature for expanding MESA.

"The diversity gap is real in our tech community," Schultzer said. "In order to secure the brightest minds, tech companies need to draw from a deeper, more diverse talent pool.”

According to a recently released report by the Technology Alliance, Washington will have 160,000 STEM-related job openings by 2020 but too few graduates with STEM-related certificates and degrees.

The report found that, while most STEM jobs are related to computing occupations, the demand for STEM talent reaches into other economic sectors of Washington as well. Examples include food production in Central Washington, hospitals in Spokane and engineering in the Tri-Cities.

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