UW News

September 7, 2000

White House honors Washington MESA program with Presidential Mentoring Award

A statewide program designed to involve elementary through high school students in math, science and engineering has won a presidential award for mentoring, White House officials announced today.

The Washington Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program, or MESA, has been given the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. MESA Statewide Director Patricia MacGowan received the award on behalf of the program today during ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

“This award really points to the power of the Washington MESA’s community of mentors,” MacGowan said of the program, which targets women and minority students. “This really is a national imperative because of the technology needs in our country. If we are going to sustain the kind of economy we have now, we need to build our own technology workforce. That means we need to bring communities to these fields that haven’t been included in the past.”

MESA was among 10 organizations and 10 individuals who received the annual award, established in 1996 by President Bill Clinton to recognize the efforts of individuals and groups to inspire youths to succeed in scientific endeavors. The National Science Foundation administers the award, which includes a $10,000 grant and presidential certificate.

MESA was formally created in 1982 at the University of Washington to attack the dramatic drop-off in mathematics and science learning among middle and high school students, particularly girls and minorities. MESA’s mission is to foster interest and competence in those fields among black, Hispanic, American Indian and women students. To accomplish that, the program brings together schools, parents, universities, business and industry to engage students in hands-on learning, field trips, guest speakers, summer technology camps and internships.

In 1999, more than 4,100 students participated in MESA programs and 94 percent of high school seniors in the program went on to college, 68 percent in math, science or engineering.

MESA continues to follow students into college, MacGowan said, by sending information on scholarships and internship opportunities. “We stay with them until they have met their goals and are in their careers.”

In addition to the UW, where the program is based, university sponsors include Washington State University, Gonzaga University and Pacific Lutheran University.

MESA is the third group associated with the UW’s College of Engineering to win a presidential mentoring award. The Center for Women in Science and Engineering won the award in 1998, and the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology (DO-IT) program won in 1997.

For more information about MESA, contact MacGowan at the Westin Fairfax Hotel through noon Friday at (202) 293-2100. After that time, contact the MESA office at (206) 543-0562. For information about the award, contact Charles S. Drum with the National Science Foundation at (703) 292-8070 or cdrum@nsf.gov.