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S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, CSUEB foster future engineers, math and science educators


Two Bechtel Transfer Projects are expected to smooth the way for future engineers and math and science teachers transferring from community colleges to CSUEB.

  • May 1, 2009

Assisted by two major grants from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Cal State East Bay is taking the lead among California State University’s 23 campuses in creating a model program that will ease the way for engineering students and students who want to become mathematics and science teachers to transfer from community colleges to CSUEB.

“One of our interests is in plugging leaks in the pipeline leading to the education and training of future math and science teachers and engineers,” said Susan Harvey, program officer for the S. D. Bechtel Jr., Foundation. “We hope the CSU East Bay community college transfer programs will become models for CSU campuses across the State”.

The programs, known as the Bechtel Transfer Project for Engineering and the Bechtel Transfer Project for Math and Science Education, will standardize classes students take at area community colleges while making sure that their lower division coursework meets requirements for admittance to Cal State East Bay. Emphasis also will go toward identifying prospective engineers and math and science teachers early in their college careers.

“The future economic and social vibrancy of our region depends on an increasingly well-educated and technologically skilled workforce,” Cal State East Bay President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “Innovative, well-prepared teachers are the key to developing that workforce through the region’s educational systems, and our partnership with the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation will help us address the critical need for engineers and math and science educators.”

Working to close the gap, Cal State East Bay increasingly has focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, or STEM education, tripling the number of new math and science teachers graduating from the University in recent years. In 2007, for instance, CSUEB prepared 122 math and science teachers, up from 36 in 2003.

Among undergraduates earning degrees from a state public college or university, 65 percent of students planning to become teachers started their collegiate careers at a community college. In recognition of this trend and with support from the Bechtel grants, CSUEB faculty members recently invited colleagues from three area community colleges to the Hayward campus to lay the groundwork for the transfer projects, discussing details such as when and how to begin outreach to and advising for prospective STEM educators.

“Cal State East Bay is extremely proud to be a partner in the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation’s national efforts to improve education in the STEM disciplines,” said Michael Leung, dean of the College of Science for Cal State East Bay.

“These two grants are perfect illustrations of S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation’s bold, innovative move to solve some of the pressing problems facing STEM education,” said Leung. “Together, they will create a best practice model for the CSU system to allow the transfer of community college students to CSU for careers in math and science teacher education and engineering with minimum attrition and credit loss.”

By 2014, science and engineering occupations in the United States are expected to grow by 21 percent, compared with 13 percent in all other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet nearly 69 percent of middle school students in mathematics, 45 percent of high school biology students and 66 percent of high school physics students were being taught by teachers who had no major or certification in these fields, a 2007 congressional report revealed. California alone is projected to need more than 33,000 new math and science teachers in the next 10 years.

The Bechtel Transfer Projects represent two of the many STEM projects underway at Cal State East Bay, ranging from a scholarship program that trains students to become effective STEM educators in urban school districts to innovative outreach and partnerships with K-12 districts and community colleges to address significant shortages in engineering fields.

“We have identified the STEM disciplines as key priorities for the university in the future,” Qayoumi said. “This is particularly important work for Cal State East Bay, which is becoming a major regional resource as a hub for science, technology, engineering and math education.”

The S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, a family foundation, supports Bay Area non-profit programs providing sustained benefits primarily in the areas of STEM education and the environment.

Founded in 1957, California State University, East Bay serves the San Francisco Bay Area with two campuses — in Hayward and Concord — and a professional development center in downtown Oakland. Cal State East Bay offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and programs in 100 fields of study, including a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership for Social Justice.

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