The Process Operations Technology program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has been named a winner of the Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and the Siemens Foundation.
Eight winning programs across the country are receiving this award for not only providing outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare or information technology, but also for their intentional outreach and support of diverse populations that typically are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Winning colleges will receive $50,000. Half will be allocated for program development, and half will be allocated as scholarships for outstanding students, known as Siemens Technical Scholars.
“We are so excited by the opportunities this award provides to our institution and our Process Operations Technology students,” said Dr. Mary S. Graham, MGCCC president. “At MGCCC, our goal is to provide outstanding education and training for the diverse population of our four-county district so they have a clear pathway to great-paying jobs and advanced degrees.”
Four Process Operations Technology students at MGCCC were named 2021 Siemens Technical Scholars. They are Queena Myles, Nicholas Nguyen, Vivian Tran and Brandon Wallace. Scholars were nominated by their award-winning programs for outstanding academic achievement, strong leadership capacities, and a deep commitment to give back to their communities.
Overall, U.S. jobs in STEM fields are projected to grow at almost double the rate of non-STEM occupations. More than half of all STEM jobs across the United States require no more than an associate degree and pay wages that average more than $50,000 annually. The community colleges honored with the Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award are playing a unique role in working to meet this demand. The selection committee identified exemplary programs that deliver exceptional training for jobs that require strong STEM technical skills, some classroom hands-on training and a postsecondary credential below the four-year degree. Importantly, these programs are successful in reaching and supporting populations that are underrepresented in STEM fields, such as students of color, low-income students and females.
“Our Process Operations Technology (PPT) program has a strong history of reaching out to under-represented populations,” said John Poelma, Technical Department chair at the Jackson County Campus. “Students are able to see diversity in the program from day one. Two of our lead instructors in the PPT program are from industry and are members of under-represented groups in the energy STEM field. Students can relate to them as leaders in both industry and in the classroom, and these instructors have been able to make their students, regardless of background, feel welcome and part of a larger group. This inclusive atmosphere has led to a high graduation rate and employment in the high-paying field of energy.”