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Sunday, July 22, 2018

“Arizona Must Focus on Science and Math Education to Spur Innovation”

Victor Vidales

In America’s “golden age” for science and engineering, from the early 1900s to the early 1960s – there was a national urgency that focused on developing the future scientist and engineers that would eventually lead the US to be the innovators of the world.

It took years for an idea to be developed in laboratories and then enhanced through innovation and hard work to finally turn into products and tools that we still use today. It made me very happy to learn that a group of ASU students and Alumni have been working on creating the same kind of urgency right here in Phoenix.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Math-Science Honors Program (MSHP), an Arizona State University summer program for underprivileged Arizona high school students. To celebrate the occasion, the program hosted an alumni dinner, mixer and silent auction on October 29th at the ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe.

MSHP and ASU alumni were encouraged to come and reconnect with friends, bid on a variety of exciting auction items at the silent auction and dance the night away. Ticket prices were sold for $50 per person, with all proceeds from the evening going to benefit the Joaquin Bustoz Memorial Mathematics Scholarship Endowment.

The Math-Science Honors Program is an intense academic program that provides motivated students an opportunity to begin university math and science studies before graduating high school. The program is designed to provide a successful university experience for students who are underrepresented in the math and science fields and to enhance their prospects for future academic success.

Originally MSHP was aimed at minority students, but over the years evolved to include low-income and first year college-bound students. Today, high school students from across the state of Arizona and the Navajo Nation compete for participation in MSHP.

In 25 years, 2,365 students have participated in MSHP, with the highest proportion from the Phoenix Union High School District. Of all these students, 75 percent are from underrepresented minorities (1,183 are Hispanic, 402 are Native American and 189 are African American).

The late Joaquin Bustoz, ASU math professor, founded the program in 1985. He had a passion not only for the field of mathematics but also for helping talented minority students achieve their full potential. He recognized the hard work required to understand math and science, and he taught his students to rise to the challenge of mastering those demanding fields of study.

“I have rather short responses to their problems,” Professor Bustoz would say. “They say, ‘My God, this stuff is hard,’ and I say, ‘Yes it is.’ They say, ‘I‘m working really hard and I’m not doing well.’ I say, ‘You have to work harder.’ There is no other way.”

The Bustoz Scholarship Endowment continues his passion to make it possible for first-generation college students to excel in the field of mathematics. The scholarship supports the recruitment and retention of students who are underrepresented in the mathematics field, who are U.S. citizens with financial need and academic qualifications. The recipients are full-time ASU undergraduate students majoring in math, who have successfully completed the summer MSHP in high school.

MSHP alumni have gone on to numerous careers, some working at NASA, Intel, Motorola and Boeing. Many are high school math teachers. Some have stayed to give back to the program. Cindy Barragán Romero, senior coordinator of MSHP, has a unique perspective on the program: not only has she worked with MSHP participants for the past 10 years, she was a participant of MSHP in 1993 and 1994.

“MSHP provided me with such an amazing support system, both throughout the summer program and my collegiate years, that it paved the way for my academic success,” says Romero. “With a campus of over 50,000 students, it is easy to get lost in the system. MSHP provides a great networking system throughout the year that adds to higher retention and graduation rates.”

The Math-Science Honors Program is housed on the ASU Tempe campus, under the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center and partnered with the Complex Adaptive Initiative System. The center is directed by Carlos Castillo-Chavez, a recent presidential appointee to the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science.

This type of program is very exciting and my hopes are that we can begin to expect and see this level of education at all of our schools in SoPho. Training and development in math and science can’t start early enough. Waiting until high school to expose students to a rigorous Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum and career opportunities is too late. We must give all children the opportunity to become the Innovators of tomorrow.

For more information on MSHP, please contact Cynthia Barragán Romero at 480-965-2068 or visit their website at http://mshp.asu.edu.



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