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Connecting UCSC students with industry to launch STEM careers

Six talented University of California Santa Cruz MESA students connected with industry professionals in San Diego during an invite-only STEM conference.

MESA’s Student Leadership Conference brought together hand-picked engineering and computer science students with industry to develop the next generation of STEM leaders. Held at the Marriott Mission Valley, October 28-29, this year’s conference challenged students to design a product or service (in about 30 hours) aimed at addressing a problem caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacts underserved communities.

The MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program guides diverse students from underrepresented backgrounds into STEM education and careers. 

Unlike job fairs or speaker-only conferences, MESA students got the unique opportunity to interact one-on-one and in small groups with company executives, engineers and recruiters. Many often leave the conference with internship offers that lead to full time employment. Students networked, attended leadership and communications workshops in addition to the team challenge. 

“MESA’s Student Leadership Conference provides an incredible opportunity for our community college and university students to gain invaluable career development skills and network with leading industry professionals to kick-start their STEM careers,” said MESA Executive Director Thomas Ahn. “Our students represent the skills, passion and potential that California desperately needs to enrich our workforce and strengthen our communities.  MESA students are among California’s most precious resources for diverse talent in the STEM fields.”

Companies recognize the importance of engaging with and supporting our students — so much so they fully fund the conference with donations.  These enlightened corporate partners understand these are not simply underserved and underrepresented students, they are an underutilized pool of talent that has been long overlooked. Companies simply cannot afford to ignore this talent pool.

This year’s sponsors include: Edison International, Harris and Associates, Keysight, PG&E, Uber, SDG&E, Qualcomm and Intel. 

Additionally, professionals from those companies and others volunteered their weekends to present workshops, host career fair tables and lead students through the team challenge. Those companies included: Carollo Engineers, San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, Solar Turbines, Northrop Grumman, Intel, Electronic Arts, Rockwell Automation, Peraton, Google and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. 

MESA alumna and astronaut Katya Echezarreta was honored with the Ray Landis Impact Award for being a visionary in diversity and STEM education.

Student attendees are from the following campuses: UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, University of the Pacific, CSU Chico, CSU East Bay, CSU Fresno, CSU Long Beach, CSU Los Angeles, CSU Sacramento, San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, San Jose State University, Sonoma State University, University of Southern California, Allan Hancock College, Bakersfield College, Butte College, College of the Desert, College of the Sequoias, East Los Angeles College, El Camino College, Pasadena College, Phoenix College, Rio Hondo College, Santa Barbara City College, San Bernardino Valley College, San Diego City College, Southwestern College and Ventura College.

Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) has a 52-year history of changing the face of science, technology and engineering by developing a new generation of STEM leaders. Now with a network of more than 250,000 alumni, MESA fuels diversity by propelling historically underrepresented students toward STEM degrees and professional careers.

Each year MESA serves over 20,000 students at the pre-college, community college and university levels across California. We bridge classroom learning with real-world applications, and employ rigorous academics, leadership preparation, a peer community and collaborative problem-solving training to produce highly skilled college graduates who meet 21st century STEM workforce needs.

The White House, the Ford Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation have all recognized MESA for its innovative and effective academic development model.

Find more information about the conference. For more information about MESA or follow us @MESASTEM.