NEWS RELEASE, 09/10/98

President Clinton lauds UC Berkeley diversity coalition at White House ceremony today (Sept. 10)

By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs

BERKELEY -- At a noontime ceremony today in Washington, President Bill Clinton thanked a group of educators, including two from UC Berkeley, for their work in mentoring students -- in particular underrepresented students -- in science, math and engineering.

The remarks came at an awards ceremony in the White House during which the 1998 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring were handed out. Eight institutions and 10 individuals received mentoring awards.

One of the recipients was a highly successful program at the University of California, Berkeley -- the Coalition for Excellence and Diversity in Mathematics, Science and Engineering -- which aims to boost the success of women and minorities in science, math and engineering. Historically these groups have been underrepresented in such fields.

Those attending the noontime awards ceremony included Neal Lane, assistant to the President for science and technology policy, Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation, James Riley, Secretary of Education, and Rodney E. Slater, Secretary of Transportation.

The awards were presented at the start of a two-day symposium on mentoring in Washington, D.C.

"Not only those whom you mentor, but those whom they touch will have a broader and more accurate world view for the future," Clinton said in praising the award recipients. "That will make our country a better place."

Accepting the award for UC Berkeley were Caroline Kane, chair of the coalition and adjunct associate professor of molecular and cell biology, and one of the program's success stories, Michele de Coteau, a recent doctoral graduate from Oxford University, England.

While an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, de Coteau participated in two programs that are now members of the coalition, the Professional Development Program and the Multicultural Engineering Program. With their help she graduated with a B.S. in engineering in 1988, and subsequently spent five years at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and an AT&T fellowship. She returned with a D.Phil. under her arm and last month took over as director of one of the programs from which she benefited, the Multicultural Engineering Program (MEP).

"These programs meant a great deal to me as an undergraduate," she said. "Cal is a big and overwhelming place, and MEP was a refuge. Without the close friends I made there I never would have heard about the Rhodes scholarship, much less applied for one."

In a laudatory letter to the coalition, Neal Lane said, "As we approach the 21st century, it is essential that all American students are prepared to meet the scientific and technological challenges of the future. Your extraordinary accomplishments in mentoring students from underrepresented groups exemplify the talent and commitment this program aims to recognize."

"This coalition is unique and valuable on the Berkeley campus, especially given Berkeley's commitment to its diverse student population," said UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Affairs Genaro M. Padilla in a nomination letter. "The members of this coalition work tirelessly, and recognition of their efforts through this Presidential Award is extremely well deserved."

The coalition was formed in 1992 when seven groups joined forces to work more effectively to retain women and underrepresented minorities who tended to leave these fields at a rate far exceeding that of white male and Asian students. The groups are:

· Biology Scholars Program

· College of Chemistry Scholars Program

· McNair Scholars Program

· Multicultural Engineering Program

· Physics Scholars Program

· Professional Development Program

· Student Learning Center

"The coalition established itself so that different student achievement programs could work together without duplication of effort and resources," Kane said. "It was a natural merger, because we all deal with the same gateway courses and the same hindrances to progress for students, whether they are cultural, political or ethnic."

"Caroline (Kane) is the engine of the diversity coalition," said Leon Henkin, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of mathematics who has been involved with similar academic advancement efforts at the graduate level. "Michele, on the other hand, shows the American people what great fruits can come from affirmative action efforts like this."

The programs identify freshmen with an expressed interest in science, mathematics or engineering, many of whom are from groups that often fail to progress beyond the "gateway" math and science courses required for a science or engineering major. Though well qualified in academic background, commitment and motivation, these students often stumble in the gateway courses.

The scholars' programs provide these students with undergraduate mentors as well as faculty and staff role models who follow them through four years of college. Each year, the coalition works with some 400 students, freshmen through seniors, including women and underrepresented minorities.

The National Science Foundation administers the Presidential Awards for Mentoring Program for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The program, instituted in 1996, is designed to recognize the importance of role models and mentoring in the development of talent in science and technology.

Accompanying the award is a $10,000 grant from NSF to improve mentoring activities.

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