STEM in Community College
By Amal Amanda Issa
California’s community college system has endless opportunities in STEM. Students may be interested in attending a community college for the various benefits it provides, but may not know its benefits in STEM education. Whether a student’s goal is to get job training, an associates degree, transfer, or exploration there are endless STEM pathways for students.
If you are curious about programs the community college offers, check out their websites to begin your search. Colleges have redesigned their academic offerings into what is called, Meta-Majors. Meta-Majors go by various names at each college, but they are essentially degrees bundled into groups with similar coursework, skills building, and/or career trajectory. Some colleges have grouped all STEM related degrees and identify it with that acronym, while others have used other ways to identify them such as “Science, Technology, and Environment”.
Along with comprehensive academic options, community colleges provide industry networks and opportunities. Community colleges and their regional workforce consortiums work with employers to ensure students have experience working and learning from the fields they are most interested in. For example, Las Positas College has a summer internship program with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Coveted tech companies are also looking now more than ever to community colleges to identify potential employees. Community colleges across the state provide web based applications such as Handshake and LinkedIn to connect students to employers.
When starting at a community college, a key piece of advice - learned from a personal experience - is to know where you want to finish. STEM degrees in particular have very specific requirements and courses preferred when the goal is to transfer. For students interested in transferring to a California State University, look for an Associates Degree for Transfer (ADT) because there are agreed upon programs for matriculation that ensure your transfer and major are more seamless between institutions. If the goal is to transfer to a University of California campus, the advice is to identify the major you intend on quickly and backwards map your educational plan to meet the specific requirements each campus has, especially when it comes to highly impacted majors such as computer science.
Reach out to a college counselor to get more information. Many colleges have counselors that work specifically with students in STEM degrees so it is helpful to identify that counselor at the campus and connect. It is encouraged to connect with a counselor as soon as possible to get started. Colleges now also have Student Success Teams - also known by different names - that specifically cohort students based on meta majors or similar to support students getting on the right path for them and succeeding. Usually a quick search will yield STEM information at the college that will help students identify their support system at the campus.
Something students in high school may not be aware of is that they can start community college now! Students don’t have to wait until they graduate high school to start taking classes at the community college. As a high school student, tuition is available at little/no cost. Secondary schools may have formal dual enrollment programs for students to take specific offerings as college enrolled students while still having the support of their high school teachers and counselors. Even if your school doesn’t have a formal agreement, students can enroll on their own. This is a huge opportunity to reach out to students who may not see themselves as college going.
The opportunities don’t stop with students. There are opportunities for educators as well! We need to diversify the instructor workforce with experienced, enthusiastic educators with expertise in content and pedagogy. As high schools and colleges look to expand dual enrollment opportunities, it is also imperative that qualified, exceptional instructors are identified. Typical qualifications included a masters degree or higher in a specific subject area and/or work experience for Career Technical Education courses. If interested, find out what your school is doing in this work and get involved.
Whether you are a high school student, recent graduate, or looking to go back to school, enrolling at a community college provides affordable, convenient, and exceptional opportunities. Share with your students how to get started just by clicking here. If you are interested in learning more or want to know where to get started at a particular community college, just reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amal Amanda Issa is a Regional Coordinator with the Foundation for California Community Colleges and adjunct faculty with Merritt College. She’s a secondary physical and biological sciences teacher as well as dual enrollment instructor. Amanda is CASE’s 2 year college director.
Amal Amanda Issa