Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650
June 4, 2002


DALLAS (SMU) -- The Dallas Independent School District is teaming up with The Institute for Engineering Education at SMU to offer a new program aimed at helping prepare middle and high school students to take advanced math and science courses. Two hundred fifty students who have completed 7th, 8th and 9th grade will participate in the monthlong program to be held on the SMU campus June 3-28.

A particular goal of the program is to improve the students’ problem-solving skills in math and science. Such skills are now prerequisites for admission to most universities and can help make students more competitive for college scholarships. Having such skills also can help students pursue more than one major while in college or complete “accelerated master’s degree programs” in which they earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree in four years.

Another goal of the program is to help expose the students to campus life. During lunch each day guest speakers from SMU will inform the students about the college admissions process and campus activities such as fraternities and sororities, athletics and drama. There also will be tours of different schools and museums on the SMU campus.

“For 98 percent of these students, this will be their first time on a college campus,” said Mike Acosta, assistant director of The Institute for Engineering Education at SMU.

The institute was created in 2001 to facilitate collaboration among universities, K-12 educational organizations and corporate entities to address the issues related to the shortfall in engineering and technical talent expected in the coming years.

More than 90 percent of students participating in the summer program are minorities and most come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“This program is unprecedented in terms of the exposure the students will get to campus life,” said Rene Martinez, director of youth mentoring for DISD. DISD has held similar summer camps in the past at its own facilities. This summer, SMU math and science professors will work with teachers from DISD to offer the math and science classes while more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students from SMU will help serve as mentors for the students. DISD is using funds from a National Science Foundation grant to support the program.

“By exposing students to problem-solving strategies in algebra and physics, we hope these students will go on to the next level in these areas,” Martinez said.

The first two weeks of the program will focus on math, and the second two weeks will focus on science. Students will participate in one or both of the sessions.

Students participating in the program were selected by their school counselors and teachers. Almost every DISD middle school and high school has some students participating in the program.

“I’m not very good in math, so I was excited when I heard about this because I know you need to know math so you can get a good job,” said Monique Trejo, who will be attending Gaston Middle School this fall.

Tony Bustos, a math teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, said it is great to have the SMU students participating in the program because they serve as good role models for the younger students.

Currently, fewer than 15 percent of students in the U.S. graduate from high school with the math and science courses required to study a science-based discipline in college.

“It is important for universities to become involved in the education of students early enough in the process so that they can be influenced to take the courses they need to prepare for college,” said Geoffrey Orsak, executive director of The Institute for Engineering Education at SMU.