On March 15, Oregon State University hosted the 2014 Oregon Association of Latino Administrators (OALA) conference, a gathering of more than 200 Latino high school principals and education leaders from across the state. Through exhibits and speakers, the event demonstrated efforts to create a more diverse, inclusive, and challenging learning environment for future leaders in STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
The College of Engineering’s Women and Minorities in Engineering (WME) program collaborated closely with conference organizers to showcase the university’s resources for underrepresented minority students in STEM fields and to create a closer dialogue between K-12 schools and higher education.
“Our goal with this conference is to help bridge the gap between K-12 education and Oregon State University,” said Amber Hoefer, the graduate teaching assistant for WME. “It’s a chance for our office and our students to share about the engineering profession and the variety of STEM opportunities at OSU. We hope to learn more about the high school curriculum and processes so we can ease the transition from high school to college.”
WME Director Ellen Momsen said the partnership with OALA was also timely, since Oregon recently adopted the Next Generation Science Standards.
“With the Next Generation Science Standards, there’s an engineering standard at every grade level,” she said. “So it’s important for us to help teachers learn about engineering resources, how engineering differs from science, and why K-12 students need to take math and science to be successful.”
Conference attendees heard from superintendents, former principals, and other administrators who shared innovative learning strategies for Latino students. Sessions featured topics on eliminating barriers for Latino students in Oregon, rural Latino education, and closing the achievement gap for English Language Learners.
Attendees also had a chance to meet students from Oregon State’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. LSAMP, a partner program of WME in the College of Engineering, is dedicated to increasing the quality and quantity of traditionally underrepresented students who complete science and engineering baccalaureate degrees.
“We had 10 student volunteers who spent the whole day at the conference right before finals,” said Momsen. “I heard from multiple people about how excited they were to hear from our students. They were very impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and dedication.”
Gina Roletto, assistant principal at César Chávez K-8 School and the OALA president, also expressed her appreciation. “We were able to bring together the leaders and teacher leaders with LSAMP at the conference and hopefully spark awareness and more resources to be shared with our students and staff,” she said. “Be expecting more students walking across [the Oregon State] campus with their teachers as they make connections to why this field is relevant to their communities and cultures.”
–Abby P. Metzger