Rhode Island MESA program at URI Feinstein College will target students in urban areas

PROVIDENCE– June 21, 2021 – Rhode Island has become the ninth state in the country to have a MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) chapter that will focus on underrepresented students from middle and high schools in urban and urban ring areas in Rhode Island, who are typically from low-income families and attend low-performing schools with few resources.

The Rhode Island MESA partnership was announced at the annual MESA USA National Engineering Design Challenge on June 21 and 22.

The program titled RI-MESA, will be housed on the Feinstein Providence campus in the Shepard building, and will be partially funded through the Feinstein College and URI. Additional funding will come from corporate and community partners.

MESA-USA is an award-winning K-16 STEM organization whose leaders and alumni are advocates for equity and access to high quality STEM education and training for under-represented students. MESA partners with higher education and K-12 schools to engage educationally disadvantaged students to excel in math and science.

The program will be directed by Cornelis de Groot, professor of secondary education.

“RI-MESA intends to reach students of color, female students, LGBTQ students, students who live in poverty, and other underrepresented groups,” said de Groot.

Negotiations for a partnership with Providence schools have been underway since fall 2020.

RI-MESA will develop and support programs in three main areas:

  • participating schools leading to local, state, and national invention and design competitions;
  • URI campus-based workshops, campus explorations, mentoring, and academic support;
  • MESA activities with community and corporate partners, including on-site visits, workshops, and internships.

“The underlying philosophy for RI-MESA is that beyond creating rich and viable opportunities for underrepresented middle and high school students, we must also work toward creating resources, among which financial, social, and emotional resources, that will enable these students to engage in these opportunities,” said de Groot.

RI-MESA will also consider STEM teaching an important career path. “This will make RI-MESA unique among the other MESA state organizations,” de Groot said. He added that there are many activities and resources at other URI campuses that RI-MESA will partner with to build a solid foundation in the state.

MESA-USA has a proven track record with over 50 years in producing math-based graduates by providing support such as classes, hands-on competitions, counseling, transfer support, career paths exploration, and a community environment for students from middle school through four-year college. Since 1970 MESA-USA has helped students become scientists, engineers and mathematicians, filling an urgent need for qualified technical professionals. MESA also partners with industry and major educational institutions throughout the United States.

R. Antony Rolle, dean of the Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, who attended Yerba Buena High School (San Jose, California) is a MESA program graduate, and worked in the San Jose State University MESA administrative office with then-Director Roberto Chavez.

“As a first-generation college student, the MESA Program provided guidance and focus beyond the acquisition of supplemental mathematical and science skills. There was also a focus on learning the academic, administrative, cultural, and economic knowledges that are necessary to navigate the complexities of university administration, from admissions to enrollment to financial aid to continued matriculation,” Rolle said.