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Engineering Students Get BESST Start

Published: July 5, 2016

Incoming CSULB freshmen who want to major in engineering must first overcome a major hurdle—passing calculus. But now, thanks to an innovative College of Engineering program, they can succeed with help from their friends.

The Beach Engineering Student Success Team (BESST) program organizes students into learning communities and invites them to stay on campus for five days during the summer so they can begin the semester knowing teachers, fellow students and what to expect. BESST participants remain in the groups throughout the school year, solidifying their sense of community.

“Here at the BESST program, we have a wonderful time together,” said Savannah Correa, who came to CSULB to study civil engineering. “We learn together. We study together. We’ve become a family, really.”

Students say BESST serves as a built-in support network.

“The BESST program has taught me that teamwork is very important,” said Jasmine Carolina Suarez, who came to CSULB to major in aerospace engineering. “Without teamwork, I wouldn’t have made it through the difficult courses.”

Now beginning its third year, BESST aims to reduce the opportunity gap for underrepresented students. There’s a national shortage of skilled STEM professionals and a need to increase the number of women and underrepresented minority members in the engineering industry. Currently, African Americans, Asians and Latinos have low levels of representation in science and engineering jobs, according to the National Science Foundation.

So far, the program seems to be working. After being identified as at-risk of failing calculus, 95 percent of students in the first-year cohort passed Calculus I with a B or better. By comparison, the pass rate for all students taking the course university-wide was 70 percent.

“We are very gratified the program is helping students from a broad variety of backgrounds advance toward their dream of becoming an engineer,” said Tracy Maples Bradley, acting associate dean for Academic Programs in the College of Engineering. “Producing graduates who represent our diverse society will help ensure that technology companies produce products and services more representative of society as a whole.”

Students receive extra support in the form of one-on-one and group tutoring, academic advising, academic and professional development workshops, priority registration and bookstore credit. All classes and support services are held in one classroom. BESST program participants say they also have access to the “best” calculus teacher—Andrea Johnson, who students know as “Ms. Dre.”

Incoming freshmen can apply for BESST after qualifying for one of two tracks during Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR). Once accepted into a BESST track, students attend the summer residential program in late August.

To hear from participants about what they think of the BESST program, visit here.