Widgets Magazine

University considers pilot partnership with Foothill Community College

The Stanford Emeriti Council is currently evaluating the future of a pilot program that placed Foothill Community College students into internships at Stanford laboratories. This pilot that began in 2009 gave more than 30 Foothill students the opportunity to conduct science and engineering research at Stanford.

Stanley Schrier, professor emeritus in the School of Medicine, led the program in conjunction with the Stanford Office of Science Outreach. While Schrier said the initiative is an example of Stanford being a good neighbor to the community, he questioned whether it is the best use of University resources, pointing out that the program only served 32 students out of 40,000 attending the community college.

“We have to think about it in a variety of ways,” Schrier said. “I think the students who participated from Foothill benefited; on the other hand, you have to think more globally.”

Approximately 80 students applied for the program last academic year, but there was not enough laboratory space to accommodate all candidates, according to Peter Murrary, dean of physical sciences, mathematics and engineering at Foothill Community College. He said 13 students are currently in Stanford internships. No new applicants are being recruited while the program is under review.

“They [Foothill students in internships] find it exhilarating,” Murray said. “It gives them a whole new perspective on science.”

Both students and faculty mentors who completed the program indicated that it was a positive experience. Students who completed a survey rated the program an average of 2.78 out of 3 in terms of how influential it was on their future endeavors. Faculty mentors also indicated that they would consider participating again, although some cited a lack of commitment by the interns as a problem that should be addressed in the future.

While the internship program was designed for the benefit of Foothill College students, the relationship between the two institutions also has rewarding aspects for Stanford, according to David Abernethy, chair of the Emeriti Council and professor emeritus of political science.

“The more we get to know about community colleges, the more we can see how important they are in American society as a way for upward mobility,” Abernethy said. “It is useful for Stanford…to learn about the importance of community colleges in American life.”

Anika Green, director of educational programs in the Office of the Vice Provost of Graduate Education, said there are additional benefits that Stanford gains from its relationship with Foothill.

Green oversees a program called Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence (DARE) that serves advanced doctoral students at Stanford who are interested in pursuing academic careers. DARE is a two-year fellowship, and one of the activities is an all-day visit to Foothill College, so fellows can become acquainted with the everyday aspects of a community college.

At this event, fellows interact with high-level administrators at Foothill and are addressed by Foothill College President Judy Miner. Green cited two examples of Stanford DARE fellows who benefited from this interaction, including a law and doctorate student who was able to teach a class at Foothill for a quarter and another student who was offered a faculty position at Foothill after completing the DARE fellowship.

“I think that there are fantastic students at community colleges who end up there for a range of reasons, and opportunities for Stanford to engage with them is advantageous for the students at the community college and also students here at Stanford, so that they can understand the experiences of students from a different type of institution,” Green said.

Stanford also connects with other local community colleges, although the level is involvement is lower.

Marisa Spatafore, spokesperson at DeAnza Community College in Cupertino, wrote in an email to The Daily that she does not know of any existing partnership between Stanford and DeAnza. However, she did indicate that Stanford representatives have participated in DeAnza’s Transfer Day in the past, and that some students from DeAnza have transferred to Stanford.

Stanford has a longer history with Menlo College in Atherton, according to the school’s spokesperson Darcy Blake. Created in 1927, Menlo was initially considered a possible undergraduate school at Stanford. The Stanford Board of Trustees ruled against this in the spring of 1932, resulting in Menlo becoming an independent four-year college.

Blake said that while a research exchange program with Stanford does not currently exist, Menlo is working on starting an internship program. Blake said she also sees additions benefits in being located near Stanford.

“Their draw for resources that we could not otherwise have is tremendous, ” she said. “I think any time you are able to collaborate, there is always benefit in it.”

  • james

    Here is a key comment, “some cited a lack of commitment by the interns as a problem.” It is not a good use of Stanford resources to basically pick at random a bunch of local CC students from one school on the primary basis that they are within commuting distance of Stanford.

    If there were to be a long-term program such as this it should be based on finding those CC students who are highly motivated and would benefit the most. That can be done by opening this to all CC students and creating a rigorous application process.

  • Scott

    (lack of) commitment is a problem for all UG interns whether they are from your school or not.

    I took refresher classes at Foothill a few years ago. The kids are very sharp. My lab partner was so determined to get an internship he wandered around Stanford knocking on doors until one prof took him on. He may have been the first. One classmate transfered to Stanford and many of the others went on to Cal or other UCs . They were at CCs due to family , economic or other circumstances

  • Cathy Lipe

    Canada College STEM Center students have gained tremendously through research internships at Stanford. Two of our students were selected to present their research posters at the ABRCMS biomedical research conference in November. They were encouraged by their Stanford mentors to apply to present at the conference. A student whose first research experience was in Stanford’s Chemical Engineering department a few years ago is now graduating from UCSD and has continued on to additional research and industry internships in his field. He will be continuing on to graduate school. Stanford’s Office of Science Outreach, Physics Department, Engineering Diversity Affairs and Stanford Medical School’s Center of Excellence in Diversity in Medical Education have been outstanding partners. The med school offers workshops, mentoring, conferences and a summer program for community college students and other pre-med students. Stanford’s research labs and other opportunities are invaluable for students who do not have research facilities at their college campus. Early research and industry internships have been shown to increase student persistence and success as STEM majors so by engaging community college students in these opportunities Stanford is helping local STEM students be more successful as they prepare to transfer to 4-year universities. The experiences also motivate our students to plan to pursue graduate school after they receive their undergrad degree.