Norfolk State attracts top STEM majors who are athletes as well
Students participate in both STEM and athletics. They turn theory into practical application in the lab. Financial support and mentoring help students succeed
Students at Norfolk State University (NSU) distinguish themselves both as students and as athletes. Two NSU athletic stars won Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) recognition as student athletes in 2012.
The school looks for students with impeccable academic credentials, but "we also work to attract members of sports and athletic programs," says Dr Carray Banks, Jr, head of the department of technology. "Our students are not only some of the top STEM majors in the country, but they participate in STEM and athletics at the same time."
NSU offers BS degrees in computer science with an emphasis on applied computing, information assurance, information science or computer engineering. BS degrees are also offered in electronics engineering, optical engineering, mathematics and physics. MS students can specialize in computer engineering, microelectronics, communications and system science and controls. Students can minor in mathematics or earn a BS in applied math. The technology department offers an AS in architectural drafting as well as BS degrees in building construction technology, computer technology and electronic technology.
Financial support, mentoring and tutoring
The Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences (DNIMAS) on campus supports minority students with full four-year scholarships. Its primary goal is to address the severe shortage of minority scientists by producing graduates in the basic and applied sciences. The DNIMAS program supports undergraduates majoring in biology, chemistry, computer science, electronics engineering, optical engineering, mathematics and physics.
A National Science Foundation grant supports the Science and Technology Academicians on the Road to Success (STARS) program. STARS provides tutors in all STEM courses at the school. Students who excel can be hired as tutors and mentors to their peers.
Faculty members visit local high schools to encourage students to consider careers in STEM fields and to apply to NSU. Entering students are assessed for placement into appropriate classes. "That's what makes our students so successful," says Munir Sulaiman, program leader for the electronic technology program.
Collaborative projects yield innovative results
Students who pursue computer technology focus on networking, user interfaces and electronics. The recently renovated Robinson Technology Building houses computer science, engineering and technology and provides opportunities for projects across disciplines.
Senior year capstone projects have included robots, one of which was a mobile device with collision avoidance sensors; a tennis court sensor that reports whether the tennis ball struck the boundary; an electronically controlled wind turbine and more.
"Seniors have to apply everything they've learned to their capstone projects. At the end, they give a public presentation," says John Spurlin, program coordinator for computer technology.
NSU encourages women technology majors
Dr Eleanor Hoy, director of retention and mentoring, and honors college liaison to the college of science, engineering and technology, worked her way up from electronics apprentice in a shipyard to first woman foreman before earning academic credentials and joining NSU's faculty. She knows the challenges facing women in a field dominated by men.
"These women aren't prepared for what they are going to face," she says. "Women in technology, sciences and engineering need a mentor."
Hoy herself earned a BS in engineering technology, an MS in human resources management and a PhD in education. As a single mother, she understands the strength needed to advance against difficult odds and has counseled many women technology students over the years. She now teaches one course and devotes the rest of her time to retaining students.
"I can talk with them about how to respond to comments, how to balance their work and their children," she says. "I use my story to enable other females. I got through it with two children. If you can't tell me you are working harder than I did, toughen up, girlfriend."
NSU hosts Girl Scout activities to encourage girls to enter STEM fields. The Girl Scout Council of Colonial Coast created an "exploring STEM" patch honoring NSU provost Sandra Deloatch, in recognition of her contributions to STEM initiatives and in appreciation for her service as chair of the board. Girl Scouts across the country can earn the patch.
Returning students are welcome
Students who left college without earning a degree are welcomed back on campus to complete what they started, sometimes twenty years before. Average student age is twenty-seven.
Some students find NSU when they are stationed at nearby military bases. An active relationship with community colleges also helps guide students onto campus and baccalaureate degrees. Students come mostly from Virginia, but the New York tri-state area is also well represented. There are also several international students.
"Norfolk State is a nonprofit school," Banks says, "and the most affordable college in Virginia when you account for all expenses."
Alums offer support
The college's practical emphasis is supported by its industrial advisory board. Industry and government professionals, often alumni, get involved in curriculum development and fundraising. Their direct connections open internship opportunities for students at corporations like S.B. Ballard Construction, Dominion Power, NASA, IBM, Northrop Grumman and GE. Students often have jobs in related fields as well as internships, for which they can receive academic credit.
"Students also get a grounding in soft skills like technical writing, oral communication and technical management," says Spurlin.