PCC Gets $2 Million to Support Women and Minorities in Tech Fields.

By James Hill|February 13, 2017Announcements|

Thanks to two large federal grants, Portland Community College is doing its part to address the issue of increasing access to the sciences for underrepresented students.

This fall, the college has won nearly $2 million in grants from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (S-STEM) program. The money will help PCC grow the educational opportunities for area low-income women and minority students in targeted programs. PCC was awarded $879,337 for its Mentoring in Manufacturing Technology Program (MeMT), and earned an additional $997,253 for the Realizing Engineering Technology Achievement (RETA) Project. Both five-year grants are focused on retention and success for these students, and help them pursue high-tech degrees and employment.

Having the same college get two of these grants from the NSF is a huge accomplishment.

“When it was announced, I was thrilled for our students,” said Dorina Cornea-Hasegan, who will run the MeMT project and serve as the coordinator of the new Rock Creek Campus Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Lab. “Not many of these proposals get funded across the nation, so PCC really won the lottery twice in 2016.”

Grants Target Women, Minorities

The MeMT project at Rock Creek  is targeting students interested in the Microelectronics Technology, Solar Voltaic Manufacturing Technology and Automated Manufacturing Technology programs. At the Sylvania Campus, the RETA project will aid Electronic Engineering Technology, Civil and Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Machine Manufacturing Technology students.

Both campus projects will supply scholarships, provide intensive advising, use industry personnel and alumni as mentors, and create guided pathways to degrees in these fields. The result of these grants is to boost the number of qualified workers, and to improve the diversity of the workforce within these fields.

“We’ll implement some best practices in these programs and share with faculty on ways to support women and students of color,” said Tara Nelson, RETA project lead and chair of the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at Sylvania. “There will be training for faculty, an improvement in our marketing material and web site, increased tutoring, and development of hands-on activities in the classroom.”

Nelson’s project, which started last September, is in the process of awarding a total of 104 one-year scholarships to students. An additional six one-year scholarships will go to graduates who enroll at Oregon Institute of Technology.

Looking to Increase Student Numbers

At Rock Creek, Cornea-Hasegan’s project started in early December. The MeMT project will provide 80 one-year scholarships to students completing an associate degree in Microelectronics Technology, with an additional eight one-year scholarships going to graduates transferring to OIT.

Cornea-Hasegan said her program aims to increase the percentage of females enrolled in microelectronics from 18 to 25 percent over the next five years. Other benchmarks include increasing the percentage of minorities from 25 to 35 percent, retaining more than 90 percent of the scholars in the program to completion of the microelectronics degree, and ensuring employment for all of the graduates in the semiconductor industry.

In addition, Rock Creek’s project will implement a successful mentoring model that is based on scholar, faculty, alumni and industry participation adapted from the University of Maryland- Baltimore County’s Center for Women in Technology.

“That is the whole purpose of these grants – to encourage enrollment, and improve retention and graduation rates for these student populations in fields that are traditionally less attractive to women and minorities,” said Cornea-Hasegan. “We’ll concentrate on strategies that have proven successful across the country and we’ll add to the knowledge base of what works here at PCC.”

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