News Release

New Student Center Focuses on Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence and Advancement

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IDEA Scholars A.J.  Gonzalez and Nicholas Montoya pose at the IDEA Student Center dedication.
Remarks by IDEA Student Center Director Terrance Mayes 

Remarks by Stedman Graham, member of the Council of Advisors to the Dean of the Jacobs School

Remarks by Jacobs School Dean Frieder Seible

Remarks by Nicholas Montoya, Jacobs School undergraduate

Remarks by Kayse Shepard, Jacobs School undergraduate

San Diego, Calif., Oct. 19, 2011 -- When Kayse Sheppard, a 17-year-old from Los Angeles, enrolled this fall as a freshman at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, she had many questions on her mind. Like many of her peers, she wondered if she would be able to handle the school’s rigorous curriculum. She also worried about making new friends.

Kayse recalled all her doubts and fears in a speech at the official dedication for the IDEA Student Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering, which took place Oct. 14 at Jacobs Hall. The center provided her with the answers to these questions—and more, she said.

The goals of the IDEA Student Center, which opened this fall, are summed up by the four words that form the IDEA acronym: inclusion, diversity, excellence and advancement. The center aims to improve retention and graduation rates; attract more underrepresented students; encourage undergraduates to pursue research; and get students in elementary, middle and high school, as well as community college, excited about a career in engineering.

“I want the IDEA Student Center to transform how we live together, how we work together and how we accomplish our mission here at the Jacobs School,” said Frieder Seible, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering.

The creation of the center already has led to significant changes, Seible added. Initiatives launched this year include a summer prep session for freshmen selected as IDEA Scholars, as well as a mentoring program that pairs graduate and undergraduate students. “The dedication at Jacobs Hall, which brought together people from all over campus, is a recognition of these achievements. But we are not done,” Seible said. “We are just getting started.”   

Seible decided to set up the center after receiving input from the school’s new Diversity Advisory Council, made up of faculty, students, staff, alumni and industry advisers. One of the center’s key goals was to improve retention rates at the Jacobs School, he said.  

The Jacobs School of Engineering is the first division to establish such a center at UC San Diego, said Director Terrance Mayes. He added he hopes others will follow.

“My vision for the IDEA Student Center is to serve as a nationwide leader for programs that foster student success,” he said.

Renowned Author, Educator Speaks at IDEA Student Center Dedication

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Renowned author Stedman Graham speaks to bioengineering professor Todd Coleman.

During Friday’s event, the audience heard from someone who is well known on the national stage. Stedman Graham, a businessman, educator and author, sits on the Council of Advisors to the Dean of the Jacobs School. His most recent book “Identity Passport to Freedom,” argues that defining yourself is key to a successful life.

Most people allow others to define them and are never truly free, Graham said. “What I have to do,” he said, “is take my power back.” How, he asked? “Don’t let the world define you,” the audience answered. “Define yourself,” Graham said. And there is no better place to do that than the school of engineering, he added. Students can take what they learn in college and build their own identity. 

“If you have an identity, you don’t have to worry, because you know who you are and you can build toward your future,” he said.

Building the Future

Kayse, the freshman from Los Angeles, is trying to build her future too—and the IDEA Center has helped her do just that. She became an IDEA Scholar and attended a four-day residential engineering prep program, where she met many students who became her friends before school even started. She enrolled in the Orientation to Engineering course series, which will boost her academic skills during her freshman year. She also takes part in the JUMP mentoring program, which pairs graduate students with undergraduates, from freshmen to seniors. And if she is still struggling, she’ll have access to additional mentoring and tutoring services.

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Kayse Shepard (left) poses with a gift for alumnus John Slaughter. 
Related link:
Mentoring Program Connects Graduate and Undergraduate Students


Kayse also has begun to give back. She recently took part in an outreach program at a local middle school. She and fellow structural engineering students showed sixth-graders how to build bridges that can carry increasingly heavy loads.

When she was growing up in Los Angeles, Kayse watched Disneyland expand and build increasingly complex roller-coasters. At the same time, she was helping her father remodel her family’s home, a project that turned into a decade-long adventure. The sum of these two experiences convinced Kayse of two things: she wanted to become an engineer; and she wanted to work for Disney.

The IDEA Student Center is helping her come closer to these two goals every day, she said at Friday’s dedication.

“I am so proud to be part of this program,” she said.

The IDEA Student Center sponsors are: John and Ida Slaughter, Boeing, Cisco, L-3 Communications (mentoring program), Northrop Grumman, Qualcomm, SAIC and SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific. 

Watch a slideshow of the IDEA Student Center dedication: 

Created with flickr slideshow.

Remarks by IDEA Student Center Director Terrance Mayes

Remarks by Stedman Graham, member of the Council of Advisers to the Dean of the Jacobs School

Remarks by Jacobs School of Engineering Dean Frieder Seible

Remarks by Jacobs School undergraduate student Nicholas Montoya

Remarks by Jacobs School Undergraduate Kayse Shepard

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering