A grand total of 1,200 community colleges in the United States are home to the most diverse student body in higher education. Economic development, state and federal agencies, as well as the business and industrial community and numerous professional organizations such as the National Research Council and the National Academy of Engineering have validated this fact. Moreover, recent data notes that over 43% of all undergraduates attend a community college at some stage during their undergraduate education. The diversity character of this student population includes age, gender, veteran status, first generation college students, and students with working parents. Indeed, the community college represents the point of origin in higher education for over 52% of Hispanic students, 44% of African American students and 45% of Pacific Islanders.
Undergraduate students, whether originating from a community college or university, seek studies that both capture their imagination and provide structured academic pathways, which lead to promising career opportunities. Materials science provides such a pathway for community college students. However, a successful pathway requires the establishment of well-defined, sustainable working partnerships that bridge community college to university to workplace. Many MRS members who serve as university administrators, research faculty, or as corporate members often provide the transitional links for these students. These links include academic and professional guidance, as well as the development of innovative programs, which open doors for students to explore theoretical and experimental materials science, complete their academic degrees, and successfully enter the technological workplace.
This symposium provides the opportunity for the materials science community to share their experiences as undergraduate mentors to both community college and university undergraduates, as well as success stories, challenges, and personal and inter-institutional impacts. A panel discussion titled Community College/University/Business Partnership to Prepare Next Generation of Materials Technicians and Technologists Prepared to Enter the Workforce will focus on effective partnerships between community college/ university/ business for seamless transition of students from lower division programs into upper division degree programs and workforce.
The anticipated outcomes of the symposium will include an overview of experiences, impacts and recommendations for establishing practices that contribute to the transformative experiences of community college students. This symposium will describe mechanisms through which partnerships provide pathways for community college students to begin their journey into materials science.