Mason – AMP Empowers
and Engages Students
Mariana Cruz (2nd year Civil and Infrastructure Engineering major; 2nd year LSAMP Program participant) worked tirelessly during the summer 2008 to create “Mason – AMP.” Mason-AMP is a new student organization intended to empower and engage Mason’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students who are selected to participate in the Virginia – North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (VA-NC LSAMP) Program. Mariana, along with the organization’s Executive Board, and Mason’s VA-NC LSAMP Program administrators, were elated when notified that Mason-AMP had received “Official Recognition” by George Mason’s Student Activities Office. All had many reasons to celebrate because this official recognition status enables Mason-AMP to request up to $3,500 per semester for support of the organization’s programs and activities, as well as the privilege to use Mason vehicles for travel purposes and reserve Mason’s rooms and facilities for events. [See attached photo for founding Executive Board from left to right: 2nd year LSAMP students Avis Foster (Secretary); Mariana Cruz (President); Camira Bryant (Treasurer); standing in back is Erik Tenas (Vice President)]
Gaining official recognition was no easy feat because new student organization proposals are more closely scrutinized when there are existing “similar purposed” organizations at Mason, and it is unclear to the Student Activities Office that the membership base for these organizations would not be adversely affected. Having served as an officer for SHPE (Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers) during her first year at Mason and having worked closely with the officers of NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) prepared Mariana for the challenge. Mariana was able to provide compelling arguments that this new Mason-AMP student organization would provide both supplementary and complementary services to a sub-group of students who would normally be recruited by NSBE or SHPE.
According to Mariana’s proposal, this sub-group of students, who are Hispanic and African American participants in the VA-NC LSAMP Program, would automatically become members of the Mason-AMP student organization as soon as they are accepted into the VA-NC LSAMP Program. However, they would still be encouraged to join SHPE and/or NSBE and participate in their worthwhile programs and activities. Mariana emphasized that while both NSBE and SHPE provide supporting activities for underrepresented minority students pursuing STEM majors, NSBE and SHPE programs and activities tend to be heavily focused on the provision of opportunities for underrepresented minority students to socialize and to participate in professional development related activities such as traveling to regional and professional conferences. Recognizing how easy it is for underrepresented minority students to feel isolated on a large university campus like Mason’s, Mason-AMP – by design – will ensure that the sub-group of VA-NC LSAMP student participants know early on that they are members of a larger family of students with similar backgrounds and goals who are succeeding in their studies and are available to help them succeed.
Prior to developing the Mason-AMP constitution, Mariana and her team took a close look at SHPE and NSBE to determine their strengths and weaknesses mainly with respect to their potential to impact underrepresented minority student achievement, which will be front and center to Mason-AMP’s mission, goals, and activities. Given the requirement in the constitution for Mason-AMP Executive Board candidates to have been successful students in the LSAMP program for at least one year, it is expected that the Executive Board members will have excellent perspectives on what makes a student successful versus unsuccessful during a semester, and they will be able to serve in advocacy roles for VA-NC LSAMP Program services and activities (e.g., related to peer interactions, academic support systems, self confidence and self reliance building, overcoming personal issues) that are meaningful, relevant, and effective toward the attainment of VA-NC LSAMP Program goals.
Mason-AMP is all about student engagement and empowerment, with the expectation that student involvement and sense of responsibility will play crucial roles in increasing LSAMP student participant retention, academic success, and professional development. In addition to arranging on-campus programs and services (such as tutoring, mentoring, study groups, etc.) Mason-AMP, together with strong endorsement from Mason’s VA-NC LSAMP Program Office, will provide tangible incentives for LSAMP students to go beyond the requirements of a course and engage in non-required activities such as research experiences for undergraduates (REU), participation in Alliance-wide events, and workshops and professional seminars.
It is generally recognized that, depending on how closely aligned the mission of the student organization is with the student’s major, students who are involved in extracurricular activities during college generally are more academically successful than are those who are not. Mason-AMP – supporting the academic, social, and professional well-being of underrepresented minority students pursuing STEM majors – provides students an opportunity to be involved without many mental or emotional distractions from their studies, ensuring that students who come to George Mason with a lot of promise perform up to and beyond their potential.
By E. Bernard White