UHD STEM Training Center Program Receives National Recognition
Scholars Academy Based Initiative Named as Finalists for Excelencia in Education Honor
By Mark Kramer
The University of Houston-Downtown’s STEM Training Center for Underrepresented Future Workforce received national recognition from Excelencia in Education for its commitment to student success.
UHD’s program was named among the finalists for the organization’s 2021 Examples of Excelencia, recognizing those higher education programs supporting the academic and professional ambitions of Latino students across the nation.
Based within UHD’s Scholars Academy, the STEM Training Center for Underrepresented Future Workforce is among 21 universities from 23 states and Puerto Rico that were acknowledged by the higher education advocacy organization for its efforts in supporting successful outcomes for Latino students. As a finalist, the center is in contention to be among the four programs officially deemed as Examples of Excelencia. Honorees will be announced at the virtual Celebracion de Excelencia on Oct. 28.
For the past three years, UHD’s STEM Training Center for Underrepresented Future Workforce has provided Houston-area high school students and UHD undergrads with summer programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) activities.
According to Scholars Academy Executive Director Dr. Mary Jo Parker, more than 450 students have participated in center’s programs with the majority of the students being Hispanic or underrepresented students.
Parker said that students have benefitted from working with mentors and UHD professors on laboratory-based projects addressing needs from a variety of industries. Hands-on activities have prepared students for careers at oil, gas, or chemical refineries, as well as in emerging tech industries such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and robotics. Likewise, students also have addressed issues related to cancer and environmental research.
The UHD STEM Training Center for Underrepresented Workforce has previously been acknowledged by the Texas Workforce Commission and the Governor’s Office. Community partners have included the Gulf Coast Workforce Board, Baylor College of Medicine TXRX Labs, Houston Transtar, FANUC America, Houston Museum of Natural Science - Wiess Energy Hall, Houston Independent School District and Aldine Independent School District.
"Students participating in the program received increased opportunities to develop their technical and soft skills for job interviews and also prepare themselves for graduate and professional programs," Parker said.
Parker added that this initiative has served as a model for other science career-based programs at UHD, including the National Transportation Summer Institute. That program was conducted in July 2021, and students learned about structural analysis, safety management, solar grid and electrical engineering. In addition, program participants broadened their knowledge of drone development within land, air and space.
Examples of Excelencia was created in 2005 and is the country’s only national effort to spotlight initiatives and programs that improve Latino student success in higher education. Each year, it receives nearly 2,000 submissions and recognizes more than 350 programs. Additionally, it has awarded more than $2 million to programs supporting Latino students.
"Examples of Excelencia identifies evidence-based programs that show, with intentionality and impact, what it means to truly serve Latino students and not just enroll them," said Deborah Santiago, Co-founder and CEO, Excelencia in Education.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second-largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 60,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).
For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.