CU-Boulder Partners With NACME To Bring Diversity Scholarship Program West

Published: July 9, 2000

Note: Seven students who were selected by the NACME Vanguard Program to enter CU-Boulder’s engineering college this fall are on campus through July 14, participating in the Summer Bridge experience. Interviews with the students can be arranged by contacting David Aragon at (303) 492-2944.

Hector Moreno, a graduate of North High School in Denver, will be the first in his family to go to college when he enrolls in CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science this fall.

Melissa Mayhew, a Montbello graduate, also is taking a different path. She is the only one in her circle of friends going on to college.

Both teenagers say they are thankful to NACME – the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering – and CU-Boulder for giving them the chance to pursue a career in which they can have an impact on their community. "They’ve really opened a door for us that wouldn’t have been open otherwise," said Moreno.

Mayhew and Moreno are two of seven students from the Denver Public Schools who were selected to attend CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering through an alternative, performance-based assessment developed by NACME. The students are on campus through July 14, joining 16 other incoming freshmen in the college’s five-week Summer Bridge program, an "academic boot-camp" that helps prepare them to start school in the fall.

Through a partnership between CU and NACME, the seven students selected for the program will receive full tuition and housing scholarships, in addition to academic support from NACME and the College of Engineering throughout their undergraduate years. The students will spend the last two weeks in July at a NACME immersion program in Tennessee, developing effective learning methods.

They are the first students from Colorado to be accepted into NACME’s Engineering Vanguard Program, a model program that has achieved a 98 percent persistence rate among minority students since 1995. This compares to a national persistence rate for minority engineering students of 36 percent.

The program’s expansion westward was made possible by a $450,000 grant from Lucent Technologies, the commitment of CU officials and the acknowledged track record of the engineering college’s Success in Engineering through Excellence and Diversity (SEED) program.

SEED focuses on the recruitment and retention of underrepresented ethnic minority students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and has a student persistence rate of nearly 67 percent -- the seventh highest in the country, according to a recent NACME study.

The Vanguard Program targets students who tend to be bypassed by traditional college recruiting methods focusing on test scores and class rank, and supports them to achieve success in the field of engineering.

The program starts with outreach to high schools in communities where few students have achieved admission to four-year colleges. An alternative, performance-based assessment is then conducted to identify the students most likely to succeed in engineering. Thirty-five seniors from the Denver Public Schools participated in an all-day NACME assessment in January.

Studies have shown a strong link between SAT scores and parental income. As promising students from low-income families are placed at a disadvantage, NACME developed an alternative assessment that evaluates students on their analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, creativity, resourcefulness and persistence. These are the same skills needed to succeed as an engineering student and ultimately as a professional engineer, said David Aragon, director of the SEED program at CU-Boulder.

NACME Vice President Antoinette Torres praised the commitment of CU officials to achieving diversity. "We’ve rarely seen the level of energy and focus we’ve witnessed at CU. I look forward to watching CU students grow and become successful engineers," she said. The chancellor’s and engineering dean’s offices also committed resources to help support the students.

After the first year at CU-Boulder, Torres said NACME hopes to expand the program to support students at Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines, as well as at schools in California and Texas.