Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition: September 6, 2001
Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition
In This Issue
Where The Girls Are

McCullough Leads MCS

Wall Street Executive Heads GSIA

Internet Study

Class of 2005 At A Glance

Diversity Recruiting

Robot's Success

Summer News Round-Up

Getting Their Kicks

International Visitors

Trotter Heads History Department

John Anderson Reappointed To CIT

Cell Phones Distract Drivers

New Director of Campus Security

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Diversity Recruiting Initiative Aims to Expand Pool of Minority Students
Program Attempts to Make Good Students Excellent

High school student Manuel Rivas never heard of Carnegie Mellon before this summer, but after spending six weeks in the university's first Summer Academy for Minority Scholars he's moved Carnegie Mellon up among his top college choices along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rivas, a senior at the Science Academy of South Texas in McAllen, Texas, was one of 94 minority high school students from across the country to participate in this new university initiative. Funded by the university‹students only had to pay for their transportation to and from Carnegie Mellon‹the Summer Academy for Minority Scholars aims to help good minority students become excellent, thus expanding the pool of minority students for schools such as Carnegie Mellon.

"As we try to recruit students from across the country we are in competition with other like institutions for a relatively small pool of super talented young minority students," said academy director Gloria Hill, director of the Carnegie Mellon Action Project. "This program was designed to expand that pool, to take a group of bright students and make them excellent."

Hill said many of the participants, like Rivas, were not aware of Carnegie Mellon. She said their participation in the program enabled them to learn about the university, its programs and its commitment to diversity.

"I think we identified a pool of students that may not have thought of us," said Vice Provost for Education Indira Nair, one of the academy's instructors. "We have expanded the pool, not only for us, but for the nation. We took kids who have promise and tried to help them realize that promise.

"The students who came were phenomenal. They were so willing to engage," Nair said.

The Admission Office, under Vice President for Enrollment William Elliott, spearheaded the recruiting effort for the academy by contacting high school counselors nationwide. Elliott said the university received about 1,000 applications.

"We've not only grown the pool nationally, but we've hopefully attracted more minority students to Carnegie Mellon," Elliott said. "We enrolled 60 African Americans this fall. I'd love to enroll about 80 African Americans in the fall of 2002."

The high school juniors- and seniors-to-be attended classes in the morning and worked on projects in the afternoon. Classes focused on science, math, engineering and English. Stanley Kaplan Inc. provided prep classes for the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Rising seniors took either pre-calculus or calculus for college credit, an English course aimed at helping them prepare and write essays for college applications, and a personal development class that looked at the college application process, goal setting and how to select the "right" college for them.

Rising juniors had classes in physics, algebra and logic. They used the cognitive algebra tutorial software, originally developed at Carnegie Mellon by Psychology Professor John Anderson and Human Computer Interaction Institute research scientists Ken Koedinger and Albert Corbett.

Instructors were graduate students from Carnegie Mellon and nearby universities, such as Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Duquesne University.

At their graduation luncheon many students expressed overall satisfaction with the program and shed a few tears at the thought of leaving the friends they had made. Many said they would like to return next summer and would consider applying to Carnegie Mellon.

Danielle Mengistab, a junior at Franklin High School in Somerset, N.J., said it was a "great experience."

"I learned a lot in physics, algebra and engineering," she said. "I've never been here before this summer, but I think it's a good college."

Mengistab's mother, Renee, said the program gave her daughter an opportunity not often afforded to minority students.

"I think minorities sometimes aren't often exposed to some of the opportunities that exist in science and engineering," she said. "I think sometimes minority students are afraid of science because they're not exposed to it.

"A program like this gives them a chance to experience these types of subjects and gives them confidence and enables them to feel comfortable."

Dana Leary, a junior at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., said she liked the "general atmosphere" at Carnegie Mellon. "It isn't too big and it isn't too small. I think I'll apply here."

Candice Lawrence, a junior from Wilson Senior High School in Washington, D.C., said she would like to return to the academy next year and that Carnegie Mellon will be among her college choices because she's interested in math, engineering, music and art.

"It challenged me and prepared me academically for college work," said Devin Fields, a senior at Narbonne High School in Carson, Calif. "It was a great experience being on my own away from home. It helped me organize myself and mature and taught me how to balance my work with fun. I'm definitely going to apply to Carnegie Mellon."

Not all of the participants were from out of town. Sebastian Vega Fuentes, a senior from Pittsburgh's Taylor Allderdice High School, said he liked the math and geographic information systems classes best and that he will "definitely" apply to Carnegie Mellon.

"The dorms were hot and the food was kind of bad, but other than that I learned a lot," he said.

Bruce Gerson

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