Friday, March 23 , 2018, 10:30 pm | Fair 51º


STEM Center Helps Allan Hancock College Students Prepare for Transfer

Grant-funded initiatives keep teamwork and tutoring close at hand for science, technology and math majors

The clock high on the wall steadily ticked past noon, an unwelcome reminder to a group of Allan Hancock College students scurrying to finish physics homework before a fast-approaching class.

Anthony Vauclin paused and pointed at something in the workbook of a fellow mechanical engineering student before putting his nose back to his own book resting on a large table in the STEM Center of the college’s Santa Maria campus.

Teamwork and tutoring are what attracted more than 6,200 visits to the center last school year, and the two resources are what continue to draw students interested in degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Seeing success in the collaborative space has inspired Hancock to launch a STEM Transfer Program to assist in an even smoother transition for students into four-year institutions.

Both initiatives are funded by a five-year, $4.3 million U.S. Department of Education Hispanic Serving Institution STEM grant, aimed at increasing the number of under-represented populations in STEM fields.

The beauty of Hancock’s STEM Center is that any student with a STEM major can use the space’s 12 computer stations and more — regardless of whether their income is low enough for other special assistance programs.

“They didn’t have a home before,” said Ashley Brackett, a STEM counselor. “Tutoring is probably the biggest reason students come here.”

Vauclin, an Orcutt resident, said drop-in, one-on-one tutoring with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students was his main incentive to visit the space, along with getting to hang out with like-minded students.

The new STEM transfer program emphasizes internships with local agriculture, engineering and other companies as key to career exploration and success.

Brackett said officials have also used the federal grant funds to pilot a career mentor program and for the first-ever STEM career fair, which is scheduled to be held in March 2014.

"We wanted to incorporate that career piece," she said. "We wanted to make sure there was a program all students could be involved in."

Brackett added that the STEM Center, currently in a portable building behind the campus police station, should soon be moving to a larger space in Building W after some services move into the recently completed One Stop Student Services Center.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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