College of Education receives grant to support

USF Professor David Rosengrant teaching during the Math Teacher Leader Institute hosted
on USF’s St. Petersburg campus in 2018.

When College of Education Dean Anthony Rolle was in high school, a teacher introduced
him to a program that solidified his interests in the fields of math and science.

The program was the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Schools Program, an award-winning program that creates academic opportunities and career pathways
for students from minority and low-income populations. Rolle largely credits it with
providing a pipeline to enter a lucrative career and being able to see himself in
that field.

“The MESA program was – and is – quite visionary…  gave me opportunities that I would
not have experienced otherwise,” he said. “A major aspect of the program provided
quarterly field trips to specific industries that paired visiting students with employees
from the same high school, so students could see themselves in that industry. As students
matured to high school juniors and seniors, these same corporations provided paid
summer internships. In fact, my first full-time summer job was at an IBM Lab working
as a novice computer program intern. Not bad for a kid with a hard-working single
mom.”

A new $75,000 grant from Duke Energy will allow USF’s St. Petersburg campus to provide
the same opportunities that Rolle experienced, by establishing programming that supports
underrepresented students in excelling and finding pathways into science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. As part of the MESA chapter that was launched
within USF’s College of Education earlier this year, funding will go towards initiating
partnerships with schools, developing curriculum, establishing STEM-focused clubs
and recruiting female and minority students in Pinellas County.

“Many students may be fascinated with STEM, but don’t feel that STEM is a career for
them. But we need individuals from every walk of life to participate in these careers,”
said David Rosengrant, interim director of education at the St. Petersburg campus
and a professor of STEM education. “We hope this program will make kids more knowledgeable
and excited for these fields, so they feel that they belong in this realm and will
develop abilities to become successful in college and beyond.”

MESA, which launched in 1969 as a pre-college intervention and solutions program in
California, has served more than 49,000 students from over 350 school districts across
the country. USF is the first institution to host a chapter of the program in Florida
and only the third in the eastern U.S. Programming will initially be directed at middle
schools in Pinellas County, with plans to expand to grades K-12 in the six counties
surrounding Tampa Bay in the future.

“We envision a more equitable country where underrepresented students of color are
empowered to achieve their dreams through mastery of STEM disciplines to create prosperity
in our communities,” said Dwight Carr, EdD, chair of MESA USA and executive director
of the Maryland MESA chapter. “On behalf of MESA USA, we welcome the University of
South Florida and Florida MESA as new national partners that will help us to achieve
our mission and help us to move closer toward our vision of a more equitable STEM
ecosystem for today’s students.”

The USF team, led by Rolle and Rosengrant, will work with local schools to attract
underrepresented populations to career opportunities in STEM fields. Students in the
program will have access to STEM enrichment activities, mentorship programs and career
shadowing opportunities with technology-based businesses from software development
to cybersecurity.

“My background is in physics and the numbers of individuals in physics that are not
white male is abysmally small. It’s a problem that we need to address,” Rosengrant
explained.

USF’s MESA chapter is currently at the St. Petersburg campus and will grow to include
the Tampa and Sarasota-Manatee campuses. The chapter is expected to open its admissions
application next school year and hopes to attract a diverse group of students with
the goal of providing a strong basis in STEM and data-based critical thinking skills,
preparing them to pursue a college degree and eventually a career.

“As a young person, I said if I ever had the chance to create such a program like
MESA, that I would,” Rolle said. “The academic and economic opportunities the USF
MESA chapter will create as the program matures will be instrumental in supporting
future STEM students and educators of STEM subjects as well as allow local corporations
and organizations the opportunity to invest in their community and the development
of potential future employees, managers and CEOs at their companies.”

For more information, please contact David Rosengrant at [email protected]

Programming