San Diego, Calif., March 4, 2013 -- The Jacobs School of Engineering was in the spotlight at this year’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action awards ceremony Feb. 13 here on campus. A pair of graduate students from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering , Laura Connelly and Margie Mathewson, who created a peer-mentoring program, as well as Frieder Seible, now Dean Emeritus of the Jacobs School of Engineering, received three of eight campus-wide awards.
Connelly and Mathewson were honored for JUMP, a peer-mentoring program that they created at the Jacobs School. Seible was recognized as an agent of change, who fostered a culture of inclusion and helped increase the percentage of underrepresented students enrolled at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.
The JUMP peer mentoring program
|Margie Mathewson, left, and Laura Connelly, who co-founded the JUMP peer mentoring program at the Jacobs School.|
The JUMP mentoring program started by Connelly and Mathewson is an example of the Jacobs School’s efforts to retain underrepresented students after they come to campus. When they started the program in fall 2011, the two graduate students wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to have a mentor did. Graduate students mentor juniors and seniors, who in turn mentor sophomores and freshmen. The program started off with 60 undergraduates and 10 graduate students. It now serves approximately 300 students, including 40 mentors, and alumni also have gotten involved.
While their program isn’t designed to attract diverse students per se, almost 55 percent of JUMP students are Latino and almost 43 percent are female. Mathewson and Connelly say they believe the group’s demographics have been shaped by groups that were actively looking for mentors. If no one in your family has a college degree or you’re part of a group that is underrepresented, you may be more likely to seek out guidance, they said.
While Mathewson and Connelly are not currently recruiting students for the program—they’ve actually had to turn people away until they get more resources—they are recruiting alumni mentors. Mentors can commit as much time as they choose, from simply attending quarterly dinners and routable discussions, to working closely with specific students.
“It’s exciting, because this is something we think is important,” Mathewson, a Ph.D. student in bioengineering, said of the diversity award. “It’s nice to get recognized because we’re meeting our goals.”
Dean Emeritus Frieder Seible
“The award recognizes the efforts which numerous people at the Jacobs School put into fostering an atmosphere, a climate, a culture of inclusion and diversity across the Jacobs School of Engineering,” Seible said in a videotaped interview produced to celebrate the awardees. For example, under Seible’s leadership, the Jacobs School of Engineering created the IDEA Student Center. IDEA stands for inclusion, diversity, excellence and enhancement. The center is dedicated to increasing student awareness of engineering in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as community colleges; increasing applications and enrollment of historically underrepresented students at the Jacobs School; improving success, retention and graduation rates for these students; and promoting the participation of all undergraduate students in engineering research. The center was part of Seible’s plan to nurture a culture of diversity at the Jacobs School, in the wake of racially charged incidents on campus in early 2010.
The center created a slew of new programs to meet these goals. They include the IDEA Scholars, which aims to build a community of scholars at the Jacobs School and offers support and achievement opportunities. Another example of retention and recruitment efforts is the Summer Pre-Engineering Program, the first-ever residential summer program designed to prepare students for the transition from high school to engineering school. JUMP, the program started by Connelly and Mathewson in partnership with the IDEA Center is another example.
“When a respected leader, such as Frieder, devotes his time, and energy, and resources, to diversify the student body and the faculty body, bringing together all of our individual efforts, we can move much faster,” said Barbara Sawrey, UC San Diego’s associate vice chancellor of undergraduate education.
Watch a video of Dean Emeritus Frieder Seible talking about this diversity award:
Watch a video about the JUMP peer mentoring program: