More Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) students will be on-track to earn a bachelor’s degree in high-demand STEM programs thanks to a $125,000 grant awarded to the community college this fall.
SFCC was one of six Washington Community Colleges chosen this year to join the Washington MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) program, which helps under-represented community college students excel in school and ultimately earn STEM bachelor’s degrees.
“This provides us with greater tools to serve our diverse student population so that more of our students will be successful in STEM degrees and, ultimately, STEM careers,” said Acting SFCC President Darren Pitcher. “The MESA program has proven results around the country, and I am eager to implement that model in Spokane.”
MESA serves students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Pacific Islanders and women. Most MESA students are the first in their families to attend college, are low-income and have not been exposed to STEM curricula and career choices.
MESA changes that equation. At participating community colleges, MESA students were more likely to persist, transfer to a university and earn a STEM-related bachelor’s degree than other under-represented students pursuing STEM studies at those colleges. Compared to the rest of the community college system, MESA colleges produce a greater share of Associate of Science-Transfer degrees (AS-T) with a more diverse mix of graduates.
With the highest rate of job growth in Spokane occurring in the health, science and medical fields, the timing for this program at SFCC is excellent, Pitcher said.
At SFCC specifically, the additional funding will allow the college to provide:
- An orientation course that introduces students to STEM careers, learning strategies and other tools for success.
- A dedicated study center, which will open in January
- STEM orientation course (academic development, industry know-how)
- Academic excellence workshops in “gatekeeper” courses
- On-site MESA director
- Academic advising tailored for university transfer in STEM degrees
Career and professional development (leadership, industry mentors, university visits, internships, workshops and research opportunities. SFCC serves more than 8,000 students per year on the Spokane and Pullman campuses and online, offering associate degrees for students transferring to four-year institutions, career and technical programs and applied baccalaureate degrees.