by Debbie Trujillo, (505) 454-2504

LAS VEGAS, N.M., December 5, 2003 – A recent award by the U.S. Department of Education to Luna Community College in Las Vegas, N.M. and New Mexico Tech in Socorro will provide funding to strengthen science education programs in minority institutions of higher education, as well as to promote access for minorities to careers in science and technology.

This new higher-education project, dubbed “STEPP” (Science, Technology, and Engineering Partnership Program), will increase participation and retention of first-year students and transfer minority students in education programs that lead to degrees in engineering and science.

Specifically, this project will benefit students in northeastern New Mexico, particularly underrepresented minorities in the areas of math, science, and engineering.

This collaborative project, although in its infancy, has already made significant progress toward improving accessibility, retention, and improved curriculum, said Gil Gallegos, director of the project.

“The partnership between Luna Community College and New Mexico Tech fits like hand in glove,” Gallegos added. “We have received much support and expertise in implementing this program, in addition to establishing student transfer cohorts well ahead of schedule.”

Project objectives, in addition to accessibility, retention, and transfer, include articulation and alignment of prerequisite science, English, and math courses.

Although a statewide articulation agreement is in place, it was determined that a closer look at course content was necessary, Gallegos explained.

Monitoring measures to ensure the success of participating students are also critical to the success of this project, he said.

In addition, a very strong advising, mentoring, tutoring, and student facilitation component at both institutions is under development.

“This component of the project will better prepare students for success in STEPP areas of study by preparing students at the community college level for successful transfer to four-year institutions,” Gallegos said.

It is expected that the model developed from this collaborative project will be adaptable to other colleges and universities in New Mexico and across the nation.