The College of Engineering has been awarded a $2.5-million grant to promote graduate education for underrepresented minority students interested in water conservation and sustainability.
With California still in the grip of a historic drought, the grant couldn’t have come at a better time.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will be used to fund what has been dubbed MENTORES (Mentoring, Educating, Networking, and Thematic Opportunities for Research in Engineering and Science).
The MENTORES program aims to encourage underrepresented minority students to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees by providing additional resources, such as tutoring, stipends and paid internships, as well as developing a pipeline with universities that have doctoral programs, such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, Cornell and MIT.
Lily Gossage, the director of the Maximizing Engineering Potential program on campus, was half of the team that worked on obtaining the grant. She says that while Hispanic students are well-represented at Cal Poly Pomona, their numbers lag in graduate programs.
“Out of our 282 engineering graduate students, only 51 are Hispanic,” she says. “As we were looking at the data sets, we noticed that there’s a dire need to help students at the graduate level.”
The program will not be limited to Hispanic students, however. Low-income students, women and other groups that lack representation in graduate programs also will be eligible.
Nor is the program limited to engineering majors. Students from the colleges of Science, Agriculture, Environmental Design, and Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences also can participate as long as their field of study is related to water and energy use.
“We want to encourage everybody,” says Behnam Bahr, associate engineering dean for Research and Graduate Studies. “As an example, in CLASS they have political science students. If somebody is a graduate student and wants to look at public policy in water and energy, that would be a perfect example of an activity we would like to support.”
Bahr says the grant also will be used to develop closer ties with industry partners, which would increase employment opportunities for graduating students.
“We are going to have conferences on our campus where students can publish their papers,” he says. “We will invite industry leaders here and the students will present to them.”
Bahr says he hopes that the MENTORES program is the first step in building more robust graduate programs across the campus.
“I only see wonderful things if I look in my crystal ball,” he says. “I think we will be in the forefront of both undergraduate and graduate education. I’m seriously excited. I feel the whole campus is changing and it’s great to be part of this change.”