CSUN Engineering & Computer Science Program Honored by Excelencia Foundation

Students in the CSUN program. Photo courtesy of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Students in the CSUN program. Photo courtesy of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

California State University, Northridge’s College of Engineering and Computer Science has been selected by Excelencia in Education, as one of this year’s honorable mentions for Examples of Excelencia in the Baccalaureate category. The recognition was received due to the college’s effort to support and mentor students studying engineering and computer science.

Excelencia in Education is a program that accelerates Latino student success in higher education by providing data-driven analysis of the educational status of Latinos and by promoting education policies and institutional practices that support their academic achievement

A committee of national experts and Excelencia in Education officials selected the college’s Attract, Inspire, Mentor and Support Students (AIMS2) program for special recognition. A celebration at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. was held on Sept. 30. The Celebración de Excelencia is the capstone of the year’s Examples of Excelencia initiative. This event is held in partnership with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

“It is a great honor for our AIMS2 program to be recognized by Excelencia in Education,” said S.K. Ramesh, dean of CSUN’s College Engineering and Computer Science and principal investigator of the five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education that supports the program.

CECS student Stephanie Medina was thrilled to hear about the honor.

“The award by Excelencia validates the worth of my school and its organizations, especially those serving the Hispanic/Latino community,” Medina said. “It gives me great pride to know that CSUN is one of the top schools in the nation for supporting higher education to Hispanic communities, and also opens many doors to future opportunities.”

The AIMS2 collaborative grant was selected for funding through a competitive program under the auspices of the HSI-STEM (Hispanic-Serving Institution division) initiative of the U.S. Department of Education in October 2011. The grant is led by the CECS at CSUN and is in partnership with Glendale Community College and the College of the Canyons.

“The cohort is already making a significant difference to enhance the successful transfer and graduation of underrepresented minorities, including Latinos, and other economically disadvantaged students in all disciplines in engineering and computer science,” Ramesh said.

Students, who are the principal stakeholders, are “very proud of being in the program and they strive to give their best, while at the same time helping each other,” said CSUN computer science professor Gloria Melara, one of the faculty members in the program.

“The students commented that the main difference between working on course work and the research task is that they share their knowledge more freely in this setting and are inspired to be better without any competing motives among each other,” she said.

To date, the program has supported more than 180 students in cohorts that work closely with a team of 25 faculty and staff members across the three partner institutions who are actively engaged in a variety of programs, designed to break down barriers and enhance academic success.

Ramesh noted that cohort participants have demonstrated greater persistence and higher GPA’s while successfully completing a higher academic course load compared to other full-time students. Quantitative measures include successful transfer, degree completion, articulation, participation in advising sessions, tutoring, mentoring, supplemental labs, student-faculty interaction, peer-peer interaction, research participation and cohort participation.

Students in the cohort have reported meaningful, fulfilling interactions with supportive CSUN faculty that enhanced student learning. Several students in the cohort have been recognized with national awards from organizations such as The Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators The Hispanic Associations of Colleges and Universities, and Great Minds in STEM.

“I hope this award encourages the university to create more programs for future engineering students, to support not only their academic goals but also their professional development,” said engineering student Felix Villa.

For more information about the program and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, please visit the program website at www.ecs.csun.edu/aims2

Excelencia is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2004 in Washington, D.C., Excelencia in Education has become a trusted information source on the status of Latino educational achievement, a major resource for influencing policy at the institutional, state and national levels, and a widely recognized advocate for expanding evidence-based practices to accelerate Latino student success in higher education. Excelencia is also building a network of results-oriented educators and policymakers to address the U.S. economy’s need for a highly educated work force and for civic leadership.