Cañada College: Focus on STEM Education

Member Spotlight

Cañada College in Redwood City, California, is a member of the California Community College System and is one of three colleges in the San Mateo County Community College District. The student body is genuinely multicultural, with Hispanic students as the largest single group. During 2009-2010, the college enrolled 10,451 unique students and 4,982 full-time equivalent students. There has been a real focus in the past several years on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. For Cañada College, we have focused on two main areas around STEM education: 1) accelerating students' progress through math classes and 2) developing partnerships with industry or local four-year institutions to provide opportunities for our students to participate in research internships.

Toward these goals we have developed a couple of strong initiatives. The first is a Math Jam program that occurs between school sessions for a total of four weeks during the academic year. Students from all levels of math and all majors are included in this program of intensive math review and progress. Students are grouped according to math level and then work from five to six hours per day with an online math tutorial system. With each Math Jam session enrollment continues to grow, and a significant number of students are able to place into a higher level math class as a result of their work during Math Jam. Students who participate in Math Jam also return to school the following semester at a higher rate and do better in their subsequent math class than students who have not participated in Math Jam. Math Jam has been particularly appealing to students who are returning to school after a number of years. With one or two weeks of intensive review and practice testing, they can move up into the transfer level classes, significantly shortening their time in school. This program has been funded by grants from the Department of Education (DOE).

In collaboration with, and hosted by, San Francisco State University (SFSU), we have funded students to attend a two-week residential summer engineering institute (DOE grant) and to participate in a year-long engineering capstone design course at SFSU (funded by grant from NASA). Funding is also available for summer research experiences at the Ames Research Center at NASA for a number of our students. We have partnered with faculty and programs at Stanford University to support summer research opportunities for community college students through a number of grant applications. Finally, our MESA program provides information about potential research opportunities and lots of support for students who are applying for these opportunities. As a result of these efforts, our students have participated in summer internships at Stanford University and SRI International.

Finally, we offer our STEM students scholarships (funded by NSF) so they can reduce the number of hours they have to work while in school. Altogether, these initiatives have resulted in a near doubling of the number of students enrolled in our chemistry and engineering classes in only two years.