Washtenaw Community College today celebrated a new cohort of STEM Scholars students preparing to transfer to a four-year university. The college hosted its ninth bi-annual STEM Scholar Transfer Celebration with students and their guests.
The program, which supports first generation and economically disadvantaged students pursuing STEM-based degrees, recently received a financial boost through a $15,000 Inclusion Initiative gift from the POWER Foundation. The funds support the purchase of supplies for workshops and practicums specific to pre-engineering, biology, chemistry and computer science students and MakerWorks memberships for pre-engineering student projects.
WCC celebrates transferring STEM Scholars twice each year, once in December and once in April. Students honored today include Betania Cornejo, Daniel Ha and Anjelika Varma.
Varma (right), who will begin studying chemistry at the University of Michigan in January, is leaning toward a career in pharmaceutical research. She said the mentoring and support received through STEM Scholars has been invaluable in shaping her path.
“Students receive insight that they might not get from their family or friends. Being able to talk with mentors about what they’ve done most of their life really helps you see yourself in certain career roles and in asking questions like, ‘Will I really like this?’” said Varma, who graduated high school from Plymouth-Canton Educational Park in 2021.
She began her studies at WCC in the Fall of 2021 and was encouraged to apply for an Undergraduate Research Opportunity, which led to a summer placement at a U-M pharmacy lab.
“When I started at WCC, I wasn’t very confident in myself," Varma said. "But they bolstered me to try, like with my research opportunity. I would not have expected myself to do any of that, but it’s made all the difference. They really care here."
After growing up the first 10 years of his life in Kentucky, Ha (right) moved with his family to Korea, where he ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree. He returned to the United States because his goal is to attend a U.S. medical school, which in most cases require specific pre-requisites he didn’t have from Korea.
Ha enrolled at WCC in May 2022 to earn those pre-requisites and in doing so has earned an associate degree in General Studies in Math & Natural Science with a concentration in Biology Pre-Med.
“The biggest thing that helped me was to meet with academic advisors and professors to decide what my next steps would be," Ha said. "I’m in the gray area, not a traditional student. My initial plan was to get another bachelor’s here in the States but they said there is no reason to repeat what you’ve already done. It’s time to take the next steps in your career.’”
As a result, Ha is applying to several universities for a Master of Biomedical Science, which he would complete in advance of medical school.
Since its inception in 2018, 82 students have been STEM Scholars.
STEM Scholars provides high-quality, holistic, academic and social experiences as well as financial support for future scientists. The program provides students opportunities to establish meaningful relationships with faculty and staff mentors.
The program is a way to deepen relationships among STEM students, their staff and advisors.
“One of our main goals is helping students view themselves as a scientist,” Susan Dentel, the Life Sciences Department Chair and the STEM Scholars coordinator. “We hope they will be lifelong learners, but now is the time for them to really develop their vision as a professional in the STEM field.”
The STEM Scholars program places a strong emphasis on research, study skills, community outreach and helping students develop confidence.
Dentel said students develop perseverance, critical thinking, self-responsibility and communication skills as they work alongside staff and fellow students.
“They learn from one another and work to build each other up as they conquer the tough classes they need,” she said. “These scholars truly build great friendships that endure past their community college experience.”
STEM SCHOLARS AT WCC
The WCC STEM Scholars Program was created to encourage, support and facilitate success for students interested in STEM careers and seeking degrees in STEM disciplines.