By Eliza Patenio, Olympic College Communications | Sept. 4, 2019
For many people, the years spent in college are some of the best in their lives. It's an experience brimming with newfound independence and exploration. However, college can also become overwhelming at times. Late-night study sessions or the panic that ensues when you realize your homework assignment is due in an hour are common experiences. Let's face it - how many of us have stared at the to-do list for an aspiring transfer student and felt as if the tasks were endless?
Dr. Roseann Berg, director of the Math Engineering Science & Achievement (MESA) program at Olympic College, was a first-generation transfer student in a STEM discipline. As someone who understands the process, she felt that leading this program would be a great opportunity.
"I am able to make connections with students and support them through something that I've been through myself," Roseann points out.
The MESA program was designed to help guide students through the complexities of higher education. For underrepresented students who plan to transfer to a four-year institution and major in the STEM field, this program has much to offer its members. Within an exclusive study center equipped with a microwave and miniature refrigerator, students can find resources such as academic/transfer planning, tutoring, study sessions, workshops, community service opportunities and scholarships. A popular resource among MESA students is the ability to participate in textbook lending.
Although the program has a target demographic, the MESA Canvas page and all workshops are open to every student who attends Olympic College. The Canvas page includes modules about study skills, writing a resume or personal statement, and an informative piece regarding test anxiety. The program also offers workshops throughout the academic year, such as the Hands-on Personal Statement Writing event taking place during the Fall 2019 quarter.
In Roseann's eyes, the community of students within the program is the most helpful resource of all. She recognizes the value in forming friendships with those who are on similar paths in life.
"Hearing [reaffirming] messages from friends, teachers and local professionals is going to make it a lot easier to believe that you can achieve your goals if you're hearing that message from the people around you," Roseann says.
Kelly Jelinski, an engineering major at OC, is glad to have discovered that sense of community in the MESA program. She is furthering her academic accomplishments and returning to school to pursue a career in civil or electrical engineering. After moving to Washington in December 2017, Kelly faced the challenge of integrating herself into a new environment. Along with providing financial assistance, MESA pointed her towards a number of other resources such as different schools in the area and their programs, as well as potential internships. She is especially enthusiastic about the networking opportunities that are available to members of the MESA program, particularly the engineering mentor night. She appreciated the chance to meet with a humble and down-to-earth individual who has had a successful career. For Kelly, the interaction made her goals seem more attainable.
According to research gathered by Catalyst.org, only 25.5% of jobs in the computer and mathematical fields were filled by women in the United States during 2017. In the same year, only 16.2% of positions in the architecture and engineering fields belonged to women.
From Kelly’s experience, it can be intimidating as a woman in a male-dominated field. You may walk into a room and only find one other woman there besides yourself. Reflecting on her own hardships, she imagines the level of difficulty that women had to face twenty years ago. The MESA community has helped create a deeper sense of belonging for Kelly as a woman in the STEM field.
"I've come to know a lot of women that are working in STEM or pursuing STEM education and they're paving the way. They're making it not feel so impossible - if she made it through, I can do it too," she says.
For some, it may be daunting to jump into a new experience. However, Kelly believes that there is only something to gain from becoming involved in the MESA program.
"There's nothing to lose. It's nice to know that there is a group you can go to. If you need a resource, they can point you in the right direction because if Roseann doesn't have it in her power, she knows people on campus who do," Kelly says reassuringly.
Roseann's passion as leader of the MESA program shines through in action and conversation. As Kelly mentioned, Roseann will reach past the walls of the study center to connect students with additional helpful resources on campus. Not only that, but she takes note of those who have similar academic majors or interests and she will introduce them to each other in order to foster connections and friendships. She is truly dedicated to seeing people reach their goals and develop into better versions of themselves. Roseann especially beams when speaking about the students involved in the program.
"I really love hearing students talk about their experiences after we go to conferences or how excited the students get when they are accepted into their transfer school," she says. For the diligent leader, it is incredibly fulfilling to "see people build confidence and believe that they have the ability to fulfill their aspirations."
Hanging next to the MESA office in the Science and Technology building is a display of profile pieces on past graduates. Entitled "Where Are They Now," Roseann goes above and beyond in following up with previous students to acknowledge their achievements.
The application process for the MESA program at OC is straightforward and non-competitive. Interested students simply need to fill out the single-page application and submit it to Roseann via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in-person (ST 108). After this, a personal meeting would be scheduled with Roseann to discuss the academic and professional paths of the student.
The MESA program at Olympic College began in June 2011. Recognizing the lack of diversity in the STEM field, the MESA program assists students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, as well as those who are the first in their family to pursue higher education or have shown financial need. So far, there are twelve community colleges in Washington state that have implemented the program. The hope is that MESA will branch out and become available in K-12 grade schools. As this program has recognized, it is increasingly important to nourish and support the brilliant minds of our aspiring STEM students, adolescents and adults alike.