NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Thirty-three prospective college freshmen, with interests in agricultural sciences, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and engineering, Friday completed a five-week summer residential institute at Tennessee State University, intended to give them a head start on their college work.
The students, all recent high school graduates from Tennessee and some from as far as Texas, Illinois and Michigan, participated in the combined Engineering Concepts Institute (ECI) and the HBCU-UP/STEM Rising Freshman Summer Institute, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.
Describing the program as a “boot camp” for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors, Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of the College of Engineering, said it was intended to improve the students’ chances in college as well as give them a jump-start on their course work.
“Studies have shown that students who participate in pre-college programs have a much higher chance of graduating from college than those who don’t,” Hargrove said, referring to the students as “unique with a higher potential to be successful in their academic career.”
State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, who served as guest speaker at the closing ceremony, told the students that “America needs you” to fill the gap created by the shortage of manpower in the STEM areas.
“If our nation must succeed in technology, engineering, math and science, then you must prepare yourselves for the challenges of the 21st century by being the best at whatever you do, and more focused and determined to achieve at your very best,” she told the students.
The lawmaker lauded the parents for “steering your children in this” direction.
“They could have been somewhere else,” she said. “But you saw it fit to support their dreams by ensuring that they engaged themselves in something more meaningful that will not only enhance their college work, but also ensure their success in life.”
She added, “Making the grades must come along with other responsibilities. Be civil minded. Participate in voting or someone who does not have your interest at heart will decide your fate. Volunteer, that’s one way of getting to where you want to go. Emulate people who are going somewhere. And above all, believe in God as you face the forces in your life.”
Future cardiologist Matthew Kennedy, 18, a recent graduate of Cane Ridge High School in Antioch, Tenn. (with 3.8 GPA), said not only did the program prepare him “for what’s ahead,” Gilmore’s speech provided an added motivation for him.
“This summer program gave me a strong academic boost in math, physics, chemistry and computer science,” said Kennedy, who plans to major in biology at TSU. “The speaker also has made me even more determined.”
Dr. Orville Bignall, Associate Professor of Physics and one of the instructors in the ECI/STEM summer program, is not surprised that participants are motivated and feel more confident.
“This program provided the students with the basic tools they need to be successful,” he said. “It took out the fear usually associated with physics, and gave them the tools to navigate the tough science courses.”
According to Dee Green, Coordinator of the ECI and HBCU-UP/STEM Summer institutes, all but three of the students who participated in the program have already committed to attend TSU for the fall semester.
“We hope to get the others to commit by the time school opens,” she said.