Title V Grant helps boost engineering program launch at CSUMB

Dan Fernandez, Andrew Lawson

Professor Daniel Fernandez (left) and Dean Andrew Lawson

December 20, 2022

By BZ Zuniga 

CSUMB has been awarded a Department of Education Title V grant, the result of grant-writing efforts by Andrew Lawson, dean of the College of Science, and Tom Horvath, associate dean. Daniel M. Fernandez, professor in the Department of Applied Environmental Science, is the grant’s project manager, assisting the college’s administrators and staff in the development of the program.

The grant, titled "Building an Effective Ecosystem for Equity in STEM Careers," is intended to increase educational opportunities for Hispanic students by enabling Hispanic-Serving Institutions to expand their academic offerings and program quality. 

At CSUMB, that means funding to support the launch of the college’s long-awaited and much-needed mechatronics engineering program, including equipment, facilities, and personnel, as well as provide for enhancements to wrap-around student services and supports that benefit all STEM disciplines.

“The College of Science has been planning to offer engineering programs that often lead to higher paying STEM jobs,” explained Lawson. 

He continues: “While our engineering program was approved by the Chancellor’s Office two years ago, this grant provides us with the resources to launch the program by helping fund the transitional space and facilities for the mechatronics engineering labs. The grant will offset some costs including about $600,000 for construction/remodeling, $600,000 to provide lab equipment and additional funding for personnel and liaison activities with industry partners.” 

Fernandez, the project director, will assist in leading the development phase of creating an engineering program in mechatronics (which combines electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science). 

“Graduates of the program will possess the skills needed to confront the challenges faced by regional growers,” explained Fernandez. ”Such challenges include optimizing water management, advancing technologies needed for planting, maintenance, harvesting and processing crops, as well as improving sustainability practices.” 

He continued that the college will also prepare engineering students with other technological skills associated with regional, statewide, and national needs. The engineering program supported by this Title V grant will fill a niche in the region and meet the needs of local employers by providing capable engineers in the field.

Funding to support greater diversification of CSUMB STEM students overall (not just within engineering) through enhanced retention and outreach efforts is a part of this HSI grant. 

That includes counselors, peer advisors, and other support staff within the STEM fields, and significant outreach and internship opportunities.

Previously, College of Science students looking to get into an engineering program have either gone elsewhere or adjusted their career track because an engineering program was not yet available at CSUMB.

“The grant provides us the opportunity to jump start it by helping with facilities,” says Lawson.

It will enable the college to offer engineering courses, facilities, and advisors, more supportive of student preferences and career plans.

It will support academic and career peer-coaching and advising with juniors and seniors who will coach freshmen and sophomores on managing coursework, developing more effective study habits, and providing tips on finding meaningful internships. 

“As an engineer by training, I have been looking forward to the evolution of this campus to include an engineering program,” Fernandez says. “Students in our new engineering program will be able to acquire the skills needed by our regional agricultural and industrial economy, while advancing the CSUMB vision and values in our community: diversity, service, and sustainability. This is an extremely exciting time at CSUMB.”

Additional reporting by Walter Ryce