The Greer Scholars is a program that establishes funding and a support system for African American and Hispanic students that are pursuing a degree in engineering at Lehigh. The first cohort of 10 students arrived last fall, and a new cohort arrived this fall.
A dinner, hosted to celebrate previous and new students within the program, was held in the Packard Lab lobby Thursday.
The event was a chance for students to interact with each other, as well as an opportunity to learn more about the purpose and mission of the program from the Lehigh faculty and staff that support the scholars. Students talked with one another and their mentors, while sharing laughs and advice about the goals of the program.
In attendance was Gregory Tonkay, the associate dean of undergraduate studies for P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science; J. Leon Washington, vice provost of admissions and financial aid; and Dr. Henry Odi, vice provost for academic diversity.
The program was originally established by Dr. Carl Greer, a Lehigh alum, businessman, clinical psychologist and Jungian psychology analyst.
“Dr. Greer believes we can change the world, a few students at a time through programs like these,” Washington said.
Odi said that the main purpose of the program is to have all the students within the program successfully graduate with an engineering degree. Another main purpose of the program is to bring attention and focus to minority groups within these respective fields.
“We’re trying to increase the presence of underrepresented students in engineering math and science fields,” Washington said. “Since Lehigh is one of the chief universities in terms of research it’s extremely important that we are one of the leaders there.”
The Lehigh staff that supports the program has set goals for recruiting, focusing mainly on minority groups.
“It is important to put in place strategies that would help to recruit, retain and graduate underrepresented students in engineering,” Odi said. “Our efforts will include helping these students and providing all the means to help them become successful.”
Those who helped establish the program considered the start of the program to be a huge success, mainly because of the immense interest the students had in their studies.
Freddy Coleman, ’17, is currently a member of the Greer scholars. He majors in computer engineering and enjoys it immensely.
“I always had a love for (computer engineering),” Greer said. “I always thought computers were really cool, and taking them apart. I had the opportunity to major in it.”
Tonkay also attributes the success of the program to the 100 percent retention rate.
“It was implemented last year and it was successful,” Tonkay said. “All ten students returned to engineering so we’re looking forward to another successful year.”
Washington, who works on recruiting students for the program, finds his responsibilities for the Greer Scholars enjoyable and fulfilling. He is currently working on finding a third cohort of Greer scholars, which will likely be composed of 20 more students.
“It’s the greatest experience one could have and there’s never a dull moment,” Washington said. “There is always something new and exciting.”
The staff and faculty also said that this program is designed to enable students to form friendships and help each other through whatever difficulties they face during their Lehigh career in regards to engineering.
Washington said that many students in the engineering department sometimes get overwhelmed by the toughness of the work and give up. However, these students usually find success if they get through the first year.
“The purpose is to deter anything that would cause failure,” Odi said. “For example, students may not do well on the first calculus exam. That should not be a deterrent and (the program) provides the appropriate support.”
Coleman said he also enjoys the program on a personal level. Though it helps him in his academic career, it also keeps him involved socially on campus.
“It’s a great support group,” Coleman said. “All engineers are able to help each other. We join summer clubs and things like that. It’s not just an academic but a social setting.”
Tonkay said the main priorities of the program are the students and their studies. However, it is still a learning process.
“We’re learning as we go,” Tonkay said. “I think that the cohort bonded quite well. We’re looking for a group of engineers to bond and be there for each other.”