BESST Welcomes New Freshman Cohorts As Program Enters Its Seventh Year

BESST students complete exerciseIncoming engineering freshman Anaya Blade is no stranger to California State University Long Beach. She attended high school at the nearby SATO Academy of Mathematics and Science, and has been participating in Future Girls at the Beach since her freshman year of high school and in the National Society of Black Engineers since she was a junior.

In mid-August, she was among more than three dozen members of the incoming cohort of the CSULB Beach Engineering Student Success Team (BESST) to attend the Engineering Summer Academy, a five-day program that exposes them to professional engineers and strategies for achieving success at university.

Anaya BladeBlade said she enjoyed hearing from the industry speakers, as well as the tour of medical device maker Applied Medical’s facilities in Rancho Santa Margarita.

She hopes to major in Biomedical Engineering, and go on to medical school. “I’m excited. I’ve seen the labs. It’s so dope,” she said of the Biomedical Engineering Department.

In recognition to the BESST program’s emphasis on helping students pass Calculus, almost each day started with math taught by lecturer Andrea Johnson. Engineering challenges by Outreach Director Saba Yohannes-Reda, team-building exercise, and presentations from advisors in the Engineering Student Success Center and Engineering Librarian Hema Ramachandran followed.

The BESST program, now in its seventh year, was developed by the College of Engineering to improve students’ academic performance and increase their ability to graduate in four years. Students receive supplemental tutoring, take designated classes, receive priority registration, and proceed in a cohort throughout the year.

“We are really, really dedicated to your success,” said Dean Forouzan Golshani. “The success of each and every engineering student is important to us.”

Associate Dean of Academic Programs Tracy Maples encouraged students to ask for help if they need it. “You need to depend on each other. We all need help,” she said.

Industry leaders who shared their experiences during this year’s Summer Academy came from a variety of engineering disciplines. They include:

  • Mario Cordero, executive director at the Port of Long Beach
  • Mia Fujii, director of license compliance at Siemens Digital Industries and a member of the CSULB College of Engineering’s 100+ Women Strong Steering Committee
  • Rick D. Hefner, program director at California Institute of Technology
  • Borja Leon, managing director of Design & Construction at D’Leon Consulting
  • Jeff Thompson, senior vice president of Capital Projects at Rancho Mission Viejo
  • Cameron White, a university recruiter at Northrop Grumman

Students also toured the Port of Los Angeles, and the Maritime Museum.

Many BESST participants, including Blade, are first-generation college students. While her parents are incredibly proud of her going to university, Blade said they don’t fully understand the level of commitment it can take to achieve a college degree, especially in a challenging major such as engineering.

Millikan High School graduate Dino Martinez said he enjoyed the week-long academy. “I thought it was really helpful and learned there are resources and people around who can help,” said Martinez, who plans to study civil engineering.

Dorothy Benveniste, a senior project engineer and manager of airline customer service initiatives in Boeing Commercial Customer Support, said at least one former BESST participant is working as an intern at her company.

“I applaud you for studying engineering. It’s a lot of math, a lot of science, but it pays off,” she said.

Thompson, who gave students tips on handling electronic communication, said engineering graduates have many opportunities. “You’re on the launch pad of what will be the opportunities of a lifetime. The question is, ‘Can you grab onto them and hold onto them?’”

For more information about the donor-supported program, visit