MESA | Spotlight

A select group of Cal State L.A. students get leadership boost

MESA paves way for college students to enter the STEM workforce

Pictured: MESA students from CSULA and CSULB.
Pictured: Cal State L.A. and CSU Long Beach students who were selected to participate in the 2011 MESA Student Leadership Conference.

Seven Cal State L.A. students, who recently attended the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Student Leadership Conference in Oakland, are now equipped with leadership skills to become successful in their future careers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

The CSULA cohort was among a select group of students from 25 universities and community colleges across the state who were invited to the conference. They included mechanical engineering major Ronnie Livas; mechanical engineering major Kevin Lizarraga; computer science major Kiara Westbrooks; fire protection administration major Chloe White; mechanical engineering major Ronald Chavez; civil engineering major Martin Inchaurregui; and civil engineering major Jonathan Valladares.

The conference, partly funded by a $10,000 Southern California Gas Company grant, focused on “Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow,” by providing MESA students leadership development training, workshop on career strategies, interaction with industry mentors, mock interviews and more.

Valladares, who was interested in meeting people from the industry and other universities at the conference, said, “I loved it and I am looking forward to attending the conference next year. I learned many things from the conference, but most importantly, I learned what it takes to compete for scholarships and internships and also that people skills are important.”

“It was great meeting many other students with the same academic and career goals I have,” said Livas. “I learned what the qualifications are for working at different companies as an engineer as well as various leadership skills I am going to need when I become a professional engineer.”

MESA is an academic preparation program that each year serves about 20,000 California pre-college, community college and university students who are educationally disadvantaged. It is one of the largest programs in the state to support educationally-disadvantaged students to graduate from college with STEM degrees. Seventy percent of MESA high school graduates statewide went directly to college after graduation compared to 48 percent of all California graduates. Sixty percent of MESA students go on to math, science or engineering majors.

“We know that California’s economy needs more STEM workers to stay competitive,” said MESA Executive Director Oscar F. Porter. “These students provide the solution to industry’s need for well-trained professionals. This event gives [students] a chance to interact extensively with STEM professionals currently working in the field.”

Cal State L.A. is home to two MESA programs:

MESA Engineering Program (MEP) focuses on students enrolled at Cal State L.A. majoring in engineering and computer science. Cal State L.A.’s MEP fosters a supportive academic environment by providing guidance and counseling in academics, financial matters, and career placement, among many other services. Peer interaction is at the core of MEP.

MESA Schools Program (MSP) is a pre-college program designed to spark interest in math, science, and engineering among elementary, middle, and high school students. MESA pre-college students gain a distinct advantage over other students by participating in MESA-sponsored activities, such as enrichment programs, career exploration opportunities, and academic and financial aid advisement.

Cal State L.A.’s MESA was named as one of the five most innovative public programs in the nation in 2001, and honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring in 2000.

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