MiraCosta College’s Nordson STEM Learning Center is being honored with a 2018 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest magazine dedicated to promoting diversity in higher education.
The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award recognizes efforts that encourage and inspire a new generation of young people to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The Nordson STEM Learning Center was lauded by the publication for making a significant difference through mentoring and teaching, research, and other initiatives that are boosting student success in those fields.
Opened in fall 2017, the Nordson STEM Learning Center is housed in the MiraCosta College Oceanside Campus Library and was funded in large part by $449,000 raised by the MiraCosta College Foundation Business Roundtable. Among those contributing to the Center’s creation were the Nordson Corp., Genentech, Datron World Communications, and UBS Financial Services, Carlsbad Rotary Foundation and the San Diego Women’s Fund.
The Center provides an enhanced academic environment conducive to collaboration and is equipped with the latest computer equipment and software, tutoring areas staffed by peers and degreed professionals, faculty office hours, independent and group-study areas, exam preparation, reference materials, and resources such as microscopes, slide sets, and graphing and scientific calculators. The Center also offers career seminars and incorporates drop-in counseling services. Regularly scheduled, hour-long workshops have included topics such as “Being Successful in a STEM Course,” “Note-Taking Techniques,” “Efficiently Reading Your Science Textbook,” and “Finding Paid Summer Internships in STEM Fields.”
Additionally, the Center hosted several Informal Faculty Discussions where students got to be a “fly on the wall” as two faculty members discussed topical science issues, such as black holes, dark matter, and the human microbiome.
“Nordson was happy to invest in the STEM Learning Center because we believe that all young people should have access to quality educational experiences that will lead them to successful careers,” said Sara Vaz, community relations manager for the Nordson Corp. Foundation. “We believe it is imperative to our future success as a business and a society that we help guide a new and diverse generation of students to STEM professions.”
Data show the STEM Learning Center is having an impact, as students who use the center had an 85 percent course success rate compared to a 64 percent success rate for those who did not. What’s more, Hispanic students using the STEM Learning Center had significant gains in success and retention.
The Nordson STEM Learning Center was seen as a critical element in helping STEM students secure the skills needed to meet the region’s growing science, engineering, and biotechnology industries. According to a San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. study, the technology sector along the Highway 78 corridor from Oceanside to Escondido includes more than 70 different industries and 200 unique occupations. With an average wage of nearly $110,000 annually, tech jobs are paying double what non-tech industries along the corridor are paying. Academic institutions along the corridor, including MiraCosta College are playing a vital role in supplying industry talent, and several associate degrees and certificate programs are training students for occupations as machinists and laboratory, engineering, computer and manufacturing technicians.
The Nordson STEM Learning Center complements several other MiraCosta College initiatives aimed at training students with the skills to succeed in the sciences and engineering. MiraCosta made history when it recently launched a groundbreaking baccalaureate program in biomanufacturing, which is aimed at setting students up for employment in the thriving manufacturing sector of the biotechnology industry. MiraCosta was one of just 15 California community colleges that in 2015 secured the green light to host a pilot bachelor’s degree program for the first time in history.
Based in St. Louis, INSIGHT Into Diversity strives to advance the national conversation about diversity and inclusion through thought-provoking articles on trends and relevant news, interviews with thought leaders and experts, exploring best practices, and profiles of successful programs and initiatives.