A Winner for Diversity and Dreams Come True
Santa Monica College’s STEM Science and Research Initiative “Chemistry Boot Camps”—intensive faculty-led workshops which led to unprecedented success for African-American and Latino students in an introductory general chemistry class—won a prestigious Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award on July 19, 2016.
Established in 2001 and named for Dr. John W. Rice— a former member of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and a champion for diversity and equity in higher education—the award recognizes individuals, programs, or community colleges that have made “the greatest contribution towards faculty and staff diversity or student equity.”
“Santa Monica College was much honored to have our outstanding Science and Research Initiative’s Chemistry Boot Camp recognized as a recipient of the distinguished Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award,” said Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC Superintendent/President. “This is possible because of the dedication and commitment of the faculty, staff, and students involved. We look forward to continuing the important work of helping all SMC students fulfill their higher education and life dreams. And we will continue looking for ways to decrease disparity in achievement.”
Officially launched in the spring semester of 2015, the boot camps sought to address the declining performance of SMC Black Collegians and Adelante students in a Chemistry 10: Introductory General Chemistry class (the two student support programs which target and help underrepresented students).
The results were drastic. According to a 2015 survey conducted by SMC Institutional Research, 62.5 percent of African-American boot camp participants passed Chemistry 10 over an institutional pass average of 41 percent; and 60 percent of Latino boot camp participants passed over an institutional average of 38.5 percent. 96 percent of participants found them to be “very useful.”
SMC student Diego Villegas ended up with a ‘D’ the first time he attempted Chemistry 10. He re-enrolled the next semester and ended up in the classroom of Chemistry Professor Muriel Walker Waugh, who initiated the boot camps. She told him he had to attend.
“I realized how vital it is to spend a lot of time outside the classroom to learn the material,” said Diego. “It helped me understand how to get organized. I now appreciate the time and effort that all the people at SMC put in to help me get the grades I deserve.”
On his second attempt, Diego completed Chemistry 10 with a ‘B’, and hopes to transfer to UCLA or USC to major in molecular biology, and eventually attend medical school. He takes advantage of The Science and Research Initiative, an academic support program at SMC designed to help traditionally underrepresented students interested in STEM careers successfully complete their studies at SMC, transfer to a four-year research-oriented program and/or enter the STEM workforce.
The Chemistry boot camps now serve approximately 82 students, and runs for 11 weeks each semester. STEM students serve as peer mentors and tutors, while chemistry and algebra professors cover material designed to give the students a head start, and provide critical academic and life skills geared toward success in STEM fields.
For more information on the Chemistry boot camps, and how you can participate, visit www.smc.edu/STEM or call (310) 434-3988.
“They have the opportunity to make a difference in their lives through Chemistry…when I see all our STEM students who have moved on to success, it just moves me beyond words.”
– Muriel Walker Waugh, SMC Professor