UCR awards new scholarships in computer science, engineering, and mathematics

December 02, 2002

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- With funding from the National Science Foundation of $400,000, UC Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering and the Department of Mathematics in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences have established a "CSEMS Scholars Program" for academically talented, low-income undergraduate students in the fields of computer science, engineering, and mathematics (CSEMS). Twenty $2,500 freshmen scholarships and twenty $2,500 sophomore/transfer student scholarships will be awarded annually for each of four years.

The intent of the program is to encourage such students to persist in the CSEMS disciplines by providing them with a comprehensive plan of financial, academic, and professional support throughout their undergraduate years in order to improve their retention and graduation rates.

The University of California, Riverside draws the major portion of its students from the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) and the inner-city areas of Los Angeles, i.e., regions in which family incomes are among the lowest in the nation. More than half of UC Riverside students receive need-based financial aid, and, in a recent survey done by the UC Office of the President, 54.7% of UC Riverside students who responded said they worked an average of 19.4 hours per week during the academic year to support themselves in college.

"Much of the attrition in the CSEMS majors occurs in the first two years," said Keith Oddson, associate professor of mathematics at UC Riverside, former associate dean for undergraduate students for the College of Engineering, and director of the CSEMS Scholars Program. "We see family financial pressure and the need for students to work part-time as primary contributing factors. Our goal with these scholarships is to provide every student participating in the program the necessary financial assistance to permit full-time enrollment and degree achievement within the normative time of the major. We wish to 'level the playing field,' economically, for these students."

In order to maintain eligibility for the program, Scholars must remain full-time students making adequate progress in a declared major of computer science, engineering, or mathematics. They are required to limit their outside employment to no more than 15 hours per week. The financial support of the scholarships is intended to mitigate the need for the Scholars to engage in such employment to the detriment of their studies. Scholars are also expected to participate in various educational and professional enhancement opportunities such as academic excellence workshops, career seminars and field trips, faculty mentoring sessions, student chapters of professional organizations, and summer internships or faculty and industrial research projects.

"This is an excellent opportunity for many of our students who qualify for the CSEMS scholarships," said Yat-Sun Poon, professor of mathematics and the associate dean of the UC Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. "It also leads these students to many other opportunities such as summer internships or undergraduate research opportunities as they advance in their academic careers."

For the current academic year, 40 CSEMS Scholars were selected, based on the recommendations of a program Oversight Committee that is comprised of UC Riverside's faculty members as well as staff members from the university's Financial Aid Office and offices of other support services. A reception in honor of the Scholars was held today in the Bourns College of Engineering. Dean Satish Tripathi handed certificates to each of the CSEMS Scholars.

Rima Fata, a transfer student majoring in computer engineering, was awarded a CSEMS scholarship this year. "I came from Lebanon, where there aren't as many scholarship opportunities," she said. "I intend to use the scholarship money toward helping pay my tuition at UCR." Jonathan Salehpour, also a Scholar this year, said the scholarship money would provide him much needed relief. "I won't have to work weekends any more," the sophomore said. Mario Olmedo, a freshman majoring in electrical engineering, was delighted that he had won the CSEMS scholarship. "I've had a hard time finding resources to be in school," he said. "This is the first time I've won a scholarship. I feel appreciated and I feel empowered to do more."

A contact for information on the CSEMS Scholars Program is Keith Oddson, at the email address jko@engr.ucr.edu. More information, including program eligibility requirements and an application form for next year's program, will also be available at the College website http://www.engr.ucr.edu/osp.

University of California - Riverside

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