The College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) is finding innovative ways to support Stony Brook’s richly diverse community while preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
At Stony Brook University, embracing the diversity both on- and off-campus has been a strategic priority for more than 40 years. In fact, the STEM Smart Program within the Department of Technology and Society in CEAS has been engaged in the development of programs that serve underrepresented minority and economically disadvantaged students since 1986. The aim of these programs is preparing students for undergraduate and graduate studies and careers in STEM fields. Thousands of students have benefited from these programs on Long Island, neighboring New York City and throughout New York state.
“We are a highly diverse community, as a College and a University,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook. “Embracing a variety of backgrounds, ideas and perspectives not only makes our College stronger but is also a critical prerequisite for fueling the innovation pipeline that drives economic development in the era of exponentially growing technologies.”
“We have been advancing STEM diversity for over 45 years, prior to most national initiatives in this area,” said Mónica Bugallo, Associate Dean of Diversity and Outreach for CEAS and Faculty Director of the Women in Science and Engineering Honors and STEM Smart programs. “We are firmly committed to expanding access to STEM education by ensuring all segments of society have opportunities to pursue an education and careers in technological advancement.”
STEM Smart programs serve the University community through a variety of enrichment, support activities and services, in addition to partnering with a wide array of departments across campus. In an effort to best serve this important population, the programs collaborate with off-campus partners including Nassau and Suffolk County Community Colleges and Brookhaven National Laboratory.
“Our STEM Smart family of programs have produced exceptional students who move on to advanced studies and gainful employment in areas critical to the economic well-being of our community, state and country,” said Wolf Schäfer, Chair of the Department of Technology and Society which is home to the STEM Smart programs. Ongoing, substantial funding and enthusiastic participation of students and faculty alike are testament to the success of our programs.”
Foundational programs include state and federally funded programs, including (but not limited to):
Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) : A K-12, New York State Education Department effort that serves about 200 local students each year to encourage and prepare underrepresented minority and low-income secondary school students for entry into scientific, technical, health and health-related professions. An average of 33 percent of STEP graduates report majoring in a STEM discipline in college.
Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP): Also funded by the New York State Education Department, CSTEP is designed to help current Stony Brook University students transition to life at a major University. This foundational undergraduate program serves approximately 450 students a year. In addition to study groups, the program offers preparation for professional school exams, academic/career advisement, a pre-freshman summer residential program for credit and academic enrichment, as well as research/internship placements. CSTEP is the primary vehicle through which we are able to host meetings, seminars and field trips that benefit all undergraduate members of STEM Smart.
Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) : Funded by the National Science Foundation, the LSAMP program is designed to increase the numbers of traditionally underrepresented minority students who pursue degrees in STEM majors while also encouraging LSAMP students to pursue graduate degrees. It is a part of SUNY LSAMP, a statewide alliance of the main SUNY university centers and smaller colleges within the geographical area of each university center. This program offers scholarship support as well as undergraduate research, community college outreach and study abroad. A recent study showed a retention rate of 89 percent for LSAMP students who received University scholarship support.
Students from STEM Smart agree that these programs provide a sense of community and mentoring as well as guidance that help them transition to college life and STEM education.
“Coming to CSTEP as an incoming freshman and as a summer student really helped me find a community and a support system of people that actually care and want to see you succeed,” said Nylette Lopez, a rising senior and CSTEP student pursuing her Bachelor of Engineering in Engineering Science. “CSTEP has definitely provided me with leadership opportunities in CSTEP Club and on our advisory board to make sure I am gaining the soft skills that I need.”
The success of the programs is significant. For example, for the years 2009-2014, 47 percent of STEM Smart graduates went to graduate school at high-profile institutions such as Cornell, Northwestern, Stanford, Stony Brook and Yale. An additional 40 percent found employment in STEM positions with industry leaders like Google, Johnson and Johnson, the Naval Warfare Center, John Deere and United Technologies. Additionally, these graduating students achieved many academic honors including two Fulbright Fellowships, nine Phi Beta Kappa inductions, twenty Magna Cum Laude graduates and seventeen Summa Cum Laude graduates. There were also two NSF graduate fellowship winners, one in 2014, and one in 2015.
Recently, the New York State Education Department renewed the funding for STEP and CSTEP with $4.5 million over five years. “This means the outreach team of Technology and Society can continue to serve more than 600 students in 2020-21 and more than 3,000 students altogether,” said Professor Schäfer, the principal of these grants. In addition, in 2019 CEAS was recognized by the American Society of Engineering Education as one of only 24 institutions to receive Bronze Exemplar status in Diversity and Inclusion, based on our diversity, STEM and outreach programs.
“In the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences we work tirelessly to build a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion that provides a welcoming environment for everyone,” said Dean Sotiropoulos. “We are a respectful, tolerant and inclusive community within which the talents and skills of individuals with diverse backgrounds, passions and experiences can be cultivated and harnessed to full potential.”
— Chris Maio