The College of the Canyons Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program has reason to celebrate this commencement season, as the program will see 33 students transfer to four-year schools after time spent at COC.
The COC MESA Program serves to enrich the experience of students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields by supporting financially disadvantaged and/or historically underrepresented students, and providing a variety of support services including academic advisement, discipline-specific enrichment and other community building opportunities. The primary goal of the program is to equip MESA students with the skills and attitudes necessary for their successful transfer to a four-year institution.
“It is essential for underrepresented, educationally disadvantaged STEM students to get involved with campus support programs, in order to increase the students’ motivation and retention,” said COC MESA director Dr. Eric Lara. “MESA provides that outlet for them. When students walk into the MESA Center, they automatically have an inclusive feeling amongst their peers, and we assist them in developing the skills required to remain competitive, as well as the self-efficacy needed to ultimately succeed.”
This year’s COC MESA graduates posted an average GPA of 3.37, with 45 percent of those students boasting a GPA of 3.5 or above. Nine students graduated with a GPA of 3.75 or higher, while two posted perfect 4.0 GPAs.
Additionally, COC student Jocelyn Perez was named a UCLA Regents Scholar, claiming an honor that only approximately 600 third-year transfer students from around the globe are invited to apply for each year.
Such high marks resulted in COC MESA students receiving $47,450 in individual scholarship awards, with an average award of $1,180 per student.
In fact, 25 percent of all scholarship money awarded to students through the college’s Institutional Scholarship Program went to COC MESA students. As a whole, 20 percent of all COC MESA students received some type of scholarship award.
COC MESA students from the class of 2016 will now be heading to four-year schools including: USC, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU San Jose, CSU Long Beach and CSU Northridge.
“Being able to see students grow personally, academically and professionally as part of the MESA program is an incredible experience,” said Lara. “Working as an advocate for, primarily, first-generation STEM students is what motivates me to continually bring new resources into the MESA Center.
“From professional development workshops to guest speakers and trips to attend national conferences, I love to introduce students to opportunities they never knew existed,” added Lara. “Opening the door for these students, literally and figuratively, is what makes my job so truly enjoyable.”
COC MESA students can also take advantage of a designated on-campus study center, and have access to overnight textbook checkout, free faculty and peer tutoring, calculator and laptop rentals, and priority registration.
In exchange for these perks, students must meet certain requirements. While a 2.2 GPA or higher is needed to apply, and must be maintained every semester in order to remain in the program, the current average GPA for active MESA students is 2.90. Students are also required to attend at least two extracurricular activities or workshops each semester, complete academic progress reports, have an academic educational plan, log at least 30 hours in the MESA study center each semester, and apply for at least one scholarship.
The COC MESA program saw its first class of students transfer in 2000, with a total of 515 students from the program having since transferred on to four-year schools. Of the program graduates who have transferred, 46 percent have gone on to University of California (UC) schools and 44 percent to a California State University (CSU).
After obtaining their bachelor’s degrees, graduates of the COC MESA program have gone on to start careers with employers including Southern California Edison, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the William S. Hart Union High School District.
“I only have great things to say about the COC MESA program. It’s a wonderful on-campus community for anyone in a STEM major to become part of,” said COC MESA student Nicole Stone, who will be transferring to UC San Diego in the fall. “My time at College of the Canyons would not have been nearly as successful without MESA.”
The MESA program has also helped some students discover a passion for the sciences they didn’t know they had. Such was the case for COC student Anthony Trujillo, who has enjoyed three years in the program as an engineering major, after beginning his collegiate journey as a psychology major. Now focused on environmental engineering, Trujillo is interested in water conservation and alternative energy and hopes to eventually work on projects using wastewater for chemical energy to benefit third world countries. He’s been accepted to both Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Davis.
“The MESA program has provided immense support,” said Trujillo, “not only academically, but I’ve also made great friends here as well.”
That sentiment was echoed by COC MESA student and tutor Julio Zamora, a chemical engineering major who will be transferring to either UC Berkeley or UC Davis in the fall, and credits the MESA program for much of his success.
“When I come (to the MESA Center) it just feels like home,” said Zamora. “I feel like I’m being taken care of here.”