STEM Summer Academy students explore career pathways, build networksby on Aug 4, 2017
The first STEM Summer Academy cohort of students immersed in a three-week discovery of academic and career possibilities, expert speakers and math review.
The Academy is one of several components in the five-year, $4.7 million STEM III grant Gavilan College was awarded in 2016. Adding to the Math Lab, students now have a STEM Center and a dedicated STEM counselor with a specialized focus on STEM and connections with four-year institutions.
"STEM is a huge umbrella of possible careers," said Marla Dresch, STEM III Activities Director and Gavilan math instructor. "Forensics, medicine, engineering, architecture, energy, genetic therapies, cybersecurity, computer science." And so much more.
Students in STEM receive academic support, discover employment opportunities on campus, participate in summer internships studying at four-year schools, enroll in accelerated math classes combining two semesters of math into one, and participate in the Summer Academy, learning from talented speakers about their work experiences in STEM careers.
Speakers at the STEM Summer Academy included
• Dr. Guna Selvaduray, with SJSU biomedical, chemical and materials engineering department
• Dr. Karen Singmaster, SJSU chemistry professor and department chair
• Dr. Steve Valencia, retired pediatrician
• Dr. John Perez, a dentist with a practice in Gilroy
• David Buick, currently with Google who worked on solar space panels at NASA
• Alex Stoykov, Gavilan College computer science instructor
• A student panel that included Tiani Louis, Gavilan and SJSU grad starting her Ph.D. studies
STEM Summer Academy students showed their fun loving side when they returned to
campus this week. (L-R) Mackenzie Jardine, Melissa Balcita, Owen Calvetti, Victoria Zuniga,
Alexis Serafio, Justin Garza, Jay Mann, Venecia Prudencio, Sarah Vessey, Maria Santos.
Returning to campus, students met up to share their experiences. This first group drew from current STEM students, TRiO students and high school students entering Gavilan College this fall. Their stories reflect the diversity of STEM pathways possible.
Alexis Serafio, a Sobrato High School graduate, has attended Gavilan for one year. He learned about the STEM program while taking Math 240, where instructor Ken Wagman encouraged him to take higher level math. Attending the Summer Academy, he was so impressed with Dr. Selvaduray's presentation he changed his major from Spanish to architectural engineering. Serafio realized he did not use resources at his high school effectively, but now draws on advice from his Puente mentor and STEM counselor. He sees his STEM network of instructors and students, along with the Career/Transfer Center (CTC) and TRiO, helping his transfer opportunities to the UC system.
Victoria Zuniga, an anthropology major, learned about the Academy in math lab but didn't think of herself as a STEM student. A math tutor gave her an application and encouraged her to apply. After hearing Dr. Valencia describe the expectations in medical school and residency, she discovered she could be a non-traditional pre-med major. Her ed plan, a self-described "big mess" before, is now clear because of the STEM guidance. She will complete all her major prep at Gavilan, then transfer to UC Davis to take exactly two years of upper division classes. "You don't have to be the smartest, the work ethic is a huge part of achieving your goals," she said.
Mikaela Rojas, a radiology major, has attended Gavilan for more than two years. At the STEM Academy she met people on the same path and learned about how to get recommendations. Dr. Valencia was a key motivator for her as well, and she now wants to be an MD radiologist. After panicking about how long it would take to achieve her goals, STEM counselors put her at ease. Take it step by step, stay on track, develop good communications with instructors. "I have used CTC, and I knew that transfer would come up really fast," she said. Her first transfer choice is CSU Dominguez Hills, which she described as an excellent school for radiology.
Jay Mann, a senior at GECA and mechanical engineering major, thought the STEM Academy was helpful. He received help with his ed plan and learned more about transferring to UC Davis from a guest speaker. "I will start applying in the next month, using the CTC," he said. As a GECA student, he will graduate Spring 2018 from high school with an AA in liberal arts. Guidance from STEM counselors will help him with the process of obtaining letters of recommendation from his Gavilan instructors.
Venecia Prudencio, a San Benito High School graduate starting Gavilan this fall, applied to UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and a private school, with different majors at each. "If you don't know what you want to major in, it's a waste of time and money," she said. She started in the summer TRiO program, the math was not challenging enough, so the counselor encouraged her to switch to the STEM Summer Academy. Hearing Google guest speaker David Buick note that some of his engineering friends were really good artists struck a chord. "I love anatomy, I love art, how to combine medicine and art?" she said. She has adapted her studies to double major in chemistry and studio arts.
Maria Santos, also a San Benito High School grad, had a great math teacher her freshman year. She decided then and there to major in math. After applying to three area CSU schools and getting turned down, she'll start at Gavilan this fall. Her LULAC counselor told her about TRiO, and she moved over to the STEM Academy after the first week. "Teachers can influence your life," she said, and wants to use her math skills to teach high school students. After attending the Summer Academy and boosting her confidence, she now wants to work toward transferring to UC Santa Cruz. "Coming to Gav, joining STEM is a great start."
Owen Calvetti, a recent grad from Sobrato High School, learned about the STEM program from a mailed invitation. He initially did not want to come, wanting a relaxing summer vacation, but his parents encouraged him to attend. He really enjoyed the presentation by Alex Stoykov. "He reassured everyone that most CS majors are average, he described himself as average," said Calvetti. "You just have to put more practice into it." He will pursue a double major in computer science and electrical engineering at Gavilan beginning this fall.
Justin Garza, a biology major, has attended Gavilan for one year. He thought the Summer Academy provided him with more opportunities. "I started with a general idea, and the guidance class helped explain the pathways I can take," he said. He was impressed with Dr. Perez's academic path, who first majored in economics, then went to dental school. Garza will explore dentistry as a career choice.
Melissa Balcita has attended Gavilan for two years as a computer science major. She also participates in the Computer Science Club on campus. "I wish I had taken some classes earlier," she said. "It took a while to figure out the class sequence." STEM counselors help students map out their ed plans so they continue on their academic path. She said she learned a lot about educational resumes, ways to highlight your major, experience, grades and club activities.
Mackenzie Jardine, a Sobrato High School grad, starts Gavilan this fall as a biology major. She attended the Summer Academy to learn about college life, classes and potential pathways. "The speakers were awesome," she said, especially Dr. Valencia and Dr. Singmaster. She wants to start in biology, then go into immunology. "It would be great to get more people involved in STEM, talk about all the STEM opportunities," she said. "If you don't know about these pathways, you can't pursue them."
Sarah Vessey, a San Benito High School grad and biology major, also received the mailed invitation to the STEM Summer Academy. She decided at the last minute to attend. Her goal is a career in animal science and then to become a vet. She learned about a STEM internship program at s nature reserve near Gilroy where students can do research, and she received guidance about working as an intern for a local vet.
Students interested in learning more about the STEM program opportunities and how to apply can contact Marla Dresch mdresch@gavilan for more information.